Karzai to Send Afghan Parliament New Cabinet Names

BY Larisa Epatko  January 5, 2010 at 5:16 PM EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to present parliament with new Cabinet nominees on Saturday, a week after the legislative body vetoed 17 of his 24 picks for the country’s top ministerial posts.

In addition to replacements for the 17 nominees, the list is expected to contain a candidate for foreign minister, a position not included in the first round. Lawmakers said the 17 rejected nominees were chosen for their connections, rather than competence. Of the seven nominees who did win approval by secret ballot were Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar.

The veto “was a wake-up call,” Shukria Barakzai, a parliament member from Kabul, told the Washington Post. “It means [the parliament members] are thinking differently, and they want real change in the governance of the country.”

“The president was surprised by the rejections,” commented presidential spokesman Wahid Omar. “This is not a pleasant situation.” On Monday, Karzai directed members of parliament to delay their 45-day winter recess, which had been scheduled to start Tuesday, to consider his new selections.

Said Jawad, Afghan ambassador to the United States, told the NewsHour on Monday, “It may be a temporary setback for the president, but it’s a step forward for the democracy in Afghanistan. I’m — it’s really happy for the parliament of Afghanistan to do their job the way they are supposed to be doing.”

Karzai promised to combat corruption in government when he won a second term last year in an election that a U.N.-backed investigation found to be riddled with fraud. The international community, including the United Nations, has said it would not help fund parliamentary elections — scheduled for May 22 — if reforms are not put in place.

At the end of this month, Karzai is planning to meet with international donors at a conference in London to discuss government progress on corruption, security and development needs.