Wolesi Jirga speaker voting: initial thoughts

Homa Sultani (Picture from her Facebook page)

The results of the first round of the voting for Speaker of the Lower House, or Woelsi Jirga, are in. A dark horse female candidate, Homa Sultani, garnered the second-highest votes in a field of five candidates.

Thus, she has advanced to the second round of voting, where she will face Khwaja Siddiq Usmani. The candidate with the most votes becomes speaker. But her surprise performance is likely to fan the controversy over elections results of the Ghazni province, where all elected representatives are Hazara, and no Pashtun candidate got elected.

Critics also see her surprise performance as a result of perceived over-representation of Hazara candidates in the current parliament.

Sultani comes from an all-Hazara district of Ghazni, where she did not face any Pashtun candidate. In her race as speaker, she garnered votes from other female MPs, while failing to attract votes from all of her co-ethnics. Despite these mitigating factors, her surprise performance will give more ammo to the critics of the election results, who are composed entirely of the losing candidates and President Karzai.

Sultani is a women’s rights activist. Although she will likely not become the next speaker, she has made history by reaching the second round of the voting. She has also thrown the traditional alignments of the Wolesi Jirga into disarray, something that will force many MPs — especially the Qanooni camp — to think hard about their vote in the second round.

According to this tweet from Afghan journalist Abbas Daiyar, Sultani’s rival Usmani is from Parwan province, and is the brother of Zarar Ahmad Muqbil, former minister of counter-narcotics.

The second round of voting will resume shortly after the MPs reconvene.

Here are the tallies of the first round of voting:

  • Khwaja Siddiq Usmani: 94
  • Homa Sultani: 44
  • Syed Ishaq Gilani: 41
  • Ubaidullah Ramin: 19
  • Baktash Siyawash: 16

Update: As expected, Sultani didn’t win. In fact, as predicted in an earlier post, no one succeeded to secure speakership. The Wolesi Jirga is now lost on how to proceed — do another round of voting or amend house rules on election of speaker?

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