Cabinet Formation Crisis: Why Do ‘Acting’ Ministers Still Exist?

It’s been a little over nine months since Afghanistan’s presidential election were held in September 2019.

Also, three months have passed after the parallel inaugurations of then-two presidents, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

Almost a month and a half has gone since the political agreement was signed between President Ghani and Abdullah, who now helms the High Council of National Reconciliation with executive authority.

The aim of the power sharing deal was to allow the two leaders to appoint half of the cabinet of ministers. However, the cabinet is still run by ‘acting’ ministers.

Exactly 17 days ago, the President of Afghanistan said he will work with the cabinet of the National Unity Government for another two weeks after which a comprehensive cabinet will be formed.

While appointing Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal as Acting Minister of Finance, Ghani announced that he would soon introduce other figures to his new cabinet. His picks would have popular roots, political weight, commitment and experience in political management.

Ghani promised that he would end the status of ‘acting’ ministers and all nominees will be introduced to the Lower House for a vote of confidence for confirmation.

Yet, the leadership crisis continues.

Of course, Ghani had not been able to complete his cabinet during the National Unity Government (NUG) and always had some acting minsters. Almost a year after the NUG was formed, more than half of the cabinet were members in acting capacity.

It seems, the tradition may continue since the current government is following in the footsteps of the NUG.

Why is Abdullah nominating candidates?

Based on the political agreement, Abdullah can “introduce 50% of cabinet[posts], including for key ministries. Provincial governors shall be introduced based in a rule agreed by the two sides… Change, replacement and dismissal [of ministers] shall take place with justified reasons.”

Therefore, half of the cabinet members and provincial governors are supposed to be appointed by Abdullah and his administration. But it seems that so far, he has failed to share the power.

Meanwhile, Ghani nominated the Acting Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Public Health, Urban Development and Land, Women’s Affairs, Information and Culture, Education, Mines and Petroleum, State Ministers for Disaster Management and Parliamentary Affairs, Acting Chief of the National Directorate of Security, Governor of Da Afghanistan Bank, several provincial governors and the mayor of Kabul, among others.

While appointments have been slow, the new candidates were exclusively from Ghani’s camp. He has been successful in making some high-profile appointments, some of which require parliamentary confirmations, and state ministers who do not.

His partner in power though, Abdullah, has left his cabinet positions vacant.

Why has Abdullah not nominated a minister yet?

Abdullah during a meeting with the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament and its Administrative Board in Sapedar Palace, had promise his nominees will be done soon.

Two weeks have passed since.

There has been a lot of speculation, but the most popular one is that there is disagreement over Abdul Rashid Dostum and his power in the cabinet.

A source close to Abdullah told Reporterly that Dostum’s share was supposed to be three ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), but finally, Abdullah proposed two ministries, not including MAIL. This has angered Dostum.

Also, Karim Khalili and Muhammad Mohaqiq – the traditional Hazara leaders – have jointly asked Abdullah to introduce their nominee for Ministry of Interior.

Therefore, a rift among political leaders on Abdullah’s side has formed and delayed the process, leaving the candidates for his share of the ministries in a state of suspense and confusion.

Another speculation is that Ghani and Abdullah are in consensus and have delayed announcing their picks until the last days before the Parliament ends this session and goes on their summer break.

The two leaders will try to push through their candidates to the Lower House at the last minute.

This will allow the parliamentarians to go on break while allowing the two leaders more time to lobby for their chosen candidates.

As Ghazni Parliamentarian Arif Rahmani told Reporterly, “This is also possible, as the government has used the session holidays on several occasions, including approving or amending the budget.”

However, members of the Lower House have said the two-month delay will mean an additional 45 days before a new cabinet gets approved.

Contributed by Zackaria Noori; Edited by Anugya Chitransh

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