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Uncertainty in electoral calendar challenges NUG legitimacy: UN envoy

AT-KABUL: The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, said that continued uncertainty about the electoral calendar would contribute to challenges to the legitimacy of both the National Unity Government (NUG) and the Parliament, which has long overstepped its term of office.

While briefing the UN Security Council he said, “An increasingly vocal opposition, drawing on the dissatisfaction promoted by the economic and security downturn, but otherwise divided in its aspirations, appears to be coalescing around a common demand for the new government arrangement.”

Moreover, he said that slow progress in advancing electoral reforms and setting an election calendar is one indicator of the need for great political cohesion, a need for an appreciation by a fragmented political class of their shared destiny. “On 13th June, the Wolesi Jirga voted against the draft Structure Law, necessitating further review and discussions,” he said, asserting, “The 17th June, the latest date as per constitutional requirements to announce the electoral calendar for the promised elections on the 15th October, has come and gone, and there still appears to be no agreement on the way forward.”

He added that progress on the economy and improving security is imperative so that Afghans have confidence in their government.

On the security front, the envoy said that, there has been a deliberate response by the Afghan security forces to the lessons learned from the dynamics and developments of last year, with the battlefield in many areas in a state of flux, with gains and reversals but with neither side effecting clear dominance.

“The security forces continue to face serious challenges, including in addressing questions of morale, leadership, attrition and logistics,” said Haysom, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. “For now, though, they are holding their ground.”

Haysom said he remains concerned about the impact that the high level of violence is having on the civilian population.

“There has been no let-up during Ramadan, during which period there have been some reports of disturbing brutality, including attacks on worshippers,” he said. “I am especially concerned about the trend of targeted attacks on civilians working in the judicial sector, and on journalists.”

The UN envoy noted there is a risk that the conflict may enter a new phase that could see retaliatory acts of vengeance and an escalating spiral of violence.

On the economic front, he noted there has been progress in revenue collection and in developing thoughtful medium-term plans for reform. The UN envoy praised the establishment by President Ghani of the High Council of Governance, Justice and Anti-Corruption, among other initiatives, as a positive step toward demonstrating results in the everyday lives of Afghans.

Regarding the establishment of a viable peace process, with the failure so far of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to midwife such a process, and the recent death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the UN envoy said such a process “seems unlikely” in the short term.

“We believe, however, that there are elements within the Taliban movement who are questioning whether they can win militarily, at least in the short term, and wonder whether a purely military goal is desirable,” he said, stressing that peace is not a luxury, but a necessity, without which Afghanistan is not sustainable.

“I am disappointed that there has been not yet any traction on peace efforts, but remain optimistic that such a process will eventually emerge,” he said.

Looking forward, UNAMA’s chief said that Afghans could meet the challenges that confront them: “It is possible for Afghanistan not only to survive in 2016, but to grow stronger as a result.”

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