Does Afghanistan Need Its Own Michaelle Jean?
As if Afghanistan weren’t having enough trouble with Taliban fighters, drug dealers, corrupt officials, and the usual rampant poverty and illiteracy, suggestions are now circulating that the country may be headed for a constitutional crisis.
In essence, the problem seems to be that President Hamid Karzai’s term ends in May, but an Afghan body called the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has announced that the next presidential election will be held in August. This would presumably leave Afghanistan without a duly elected president over the summer, and it’s unclear who would actually be in charge. Karzai has attempted to overrule the IEC by calling for an election in April, in line with a constitutional stipulation that the election should take place 30 to 60 days before the president steps down. However, Karzai apparently does not have the power to decide election dates, and there’s also the minor problem that holding a reasonable election as early as April is thought to be logistically impossible. Some roads will still be blocked by snow, and the 17,000 American troops that Barack Obama has promised will not yet be deployed to help ensure security.
This talk of a looming political crisis will seem wearily familiar to Canadians, after the parliamentary soap opera we lived through last autumn. We can at least tell our Afghan friends that we’ve been there and we know what it’s like, apart from minor details like the fact that our mini-crisis didn’t take place in the teeth of a savage insurgency. Stephen Harper can reassure President Karzai, leader to leader, that fixed dates don’t really matter and he can have the election whenever he wants.
My next suggestion, however, is entirely serious: Afghanistan ought to have a monarch. Our Canadian parliamentary difficulties were instantly defused when Michaelle Jean, who can be sensible enough when she isn’t mixing up her mountain ranges or behaving like the Governor General of Haiti, acted on the Queen’s behalf to prorogue parliament and give everyone time to cool down and consider their positions. An apolitical King or Queen of Afghanistan could perhaps act in a similar way to resolve the contradiction between the Afghan constitution and the decision of the IEC. There are certainly other ways to smooth out the kinks that will inevitably arise now and then in a constitutional system, but appealing to a single, impartial referee worked well for Canada last year.