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Major Tests Await Afghan Power-Sharing Deal

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani embrace after signing a power-sharing agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, September 21, 2014.
Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani embrace after signing a power-sharing agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, September 21, 2014.

Afghanistan’s recently announced power-sharing deal has myriad trials ahead, according to Afghan and foreign observers.

On September 21, Afghanistan’s election commission officially named former finance minister Ashraf Ghani as the country’s next president.

The move came just hours after Ghani signed a power-sharing agreement with rival Abdullah Abdullah, who is expected to take on the newly-created position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The position holds powers similar to that of prime minister.

The new administration is expected to be inaugurated early next week, and will be immediately expected to sign a stalled bilateral security agreement with the United States in a bid to fend off Taliban attacks.

The new government will be hard-pressed to convince donors to bankroll Afghanistan and push for economic growth and development in the face of falling revenues and capital flight.

Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, the head of Kabul's Center for Regional Studies of Afghanistan, says the deal has raised key questions about the legitimacy and credibility of the political process in Afghanistan.

"The fundamental question is whether the incoming government derives its legitimacy from the election process or a political deal" he said. "If it is viewed as the later case, it will be a major blow for the political process and elections in Afghanistan."

Liwal told Radio Free Afghanistan that in the future Afghans may become skeptical of the election processes if the deal fails.

"We have the broad outline of power sharing in the agreement, but the absence of a robust mechanism to resolve future disputes unfortunately will weaken it and might result in its ultimate demise," he said.

Wadir Safi, a law professor at Kabul University, says that what is being billed to the Afghan public as the national unity government, which would bring all parties together, is in fact just a division of power between two election coalitions.

"We might see some people being shuffled around, but that won't make it a truly national unity government," he said. "It is just a power-sharing deal."

Former European diplomat and current head of the Afghanistan Analysts Network Thomas Ruttig says the deal is a good omen for Afghanistan, but the way it was concluded undermines the democratic process, thereby rendering elections almost irrelevant.

"Afghans have decided to become a democratic country, which includes elections and forming this type of coalition," he said. "I hope that in the work of the future government the aspirations and dire needs of the Afghan population will be at the center, rather than who will get which post."

Abubakar Siddique wrote this report based on reporting by Norias Nori and Ahmad Takal.

Editor's Note: A sentence was added before Mr. Ruttig’s quote at his request in order to clarify his views on the issue.