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Challenging Karzai

"The Guardian" reported over the weekend that "the US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai."

If true, this is nothing new. The idea of having a prime minister and a parliamentary form of government was debated during the constitutional loya jirga of 2003-4 but a majority of delegates opposed it.

There are still some within the Afghan political spectrum (particularly in the current parliament) who continue to promote this idea, however many Afghan observers perceive it to be just another way to grab power rather than a real answer to Afghanistan's governance crisis.

Parliamentary democracy was attempted for nearly a decade when Afghanistan was a much stabler country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the governments always remained fragile and the system never took root. In fact, seven governments were formed in what historians have called the decade of democracy from 1964 to 1973.

In addition, "The Guardian" story reported that "the US and Europeans are seeking to channel resources to the provinces rather than to central government in Kabul."

One of the problems with the current Afghan system is that it envisages robust governance at the district level (Afghanistan has 360 districts) but it hasn't yet implemented this yet, primarily because of the central government's limited capacity.

But it isn't clear exactly where that robust local governance would come from. Local politicians often tend to be remnants of old warring militias and their commitment to the rule of law is questionable.

Nor is there a guarantee that a technocratic prime minister, favored by the international community, would result in tempering corruption, since much of the high-level corruption, according to Afghan officials, exists in the way international contracts are awarded.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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