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Afghan Cabinet Delay Creates Pessimism

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (L) and Abdullah Abdullah.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (L) and Abdullah Abdullah.

As President Ashraf Ghani completed 100 days in power on January 6, Afghans are disappointed over his failure to form a cabinet.

Ordinary Afghans, lawmakers and observers are frustrated because the absence of a cabinet generates uncertainty and affects the performance of the National Unity Government, which had promised swift reforms.

After his inauguration in late September, Ghani had pledged to form a cabinet within 45 days. But he is still haggling with his National Unity Government partner and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah over whom to include in the cabinet.

Mohammad Omar, a shopkeeper in the capital Kabul. says the new government has failed to deliver on its promises.

"We were very happy with the formation of the National Unity Government. But from the day this government was established we have not seen any good," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. "A hundred days have passed, and still we have no cabinet. We don't know what to make of this."

Tariq, another resident of Kabul who, like many Afghans, goes by a single name, had attached great hopes to the new government led by a Western-educated technocrat.

Tariq had hoped the new government would swiftly implement economic reforms and create the jobs it promised.

He says that now the delay in forming the cabinet has clouded his job prospects.

"We are waiting for the cabinet. It’s not known when the government will announce the names of the ministers so people can get jobs in the government departments they will run," Tariq said. "My life is bitter because of unemployment."

Abdullah is trying to calm the resentment over the cabinet delay.

Speaking to provincial council members on January 6, Abdullah said their administration was working hard to put together a "professional" cabinet for the mandatory vote of confidence in parliament.

"President Ghani and I discuss and exchange views on the candidates on a daily basis. God willing, we promise that we all will witness the announcement of the cabinet soon," he said.

For some, the current government has no legitimacy without a cabinet in place.

Fatima Aziz, a female lawmaker, told Radio Free Afghanistan the lack of a cabinet undermines the legitimacy of the new administration.

"The unity government leaders announced they would form the cabinet within 45 days, but they have yet to fulfill that pledge," she said. "Unfortunately, this administration is already illegal, and we do not have a cabinet. I wish the previous ministers had at least been kept in their posts."

Soon after assuming office, Ghani removed many ministers of the previous cabinet in October. By December, he had removed nearly all the cabinet members who had served under former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and called on deputy ministers to serve as acting ministers until the new cabinet is formed.

The deadlock over the formation of the new Afghan cabinet has overshadowed the performance of the unity administration, which had promised swift reforms to eradicate corruption and improve government performance.

Observers now say the delay in announcing senior government posts has paralyzed government institutions and that even corruption has increased.

Afghan analyst Mohammad Hakim Torsan says he considers the delay in cabinet formation a key mistake.

"In other countries, new governments do their best to achieve their key pledges to improve the lives of their people in the first 100 days," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. "But this government has not achieved anything beneficial to the Afghan people. Only the top leaders and those close to them are becoming richer."