Afghan presidential hopeful vows to create PM post

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan presidential hopeful and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah said he would revise Afghanistan’s constitution to install a prime minister and boost the powers of parliament if he wins elections in August.

Afghan presidential hopeful and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kabul May 31, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Abdullah is running against incumbent President Hamid Karzai, whose position as clear frontrunner before the August 20 vote was further boosted on Sunday when two key opposition groups pledged to back him.

Abdullah, who was a close adviser to assassinated and widely revered Afghan Commander Ahmed Shah Masood, said the political system was ripe for a complete overhaul.

The current system concentrates power in the office of the president, and because parliament is relatively weak there are few avenues to challenge corrupt or incompetent officials, he told Reuters in an interview.

“The highly centralized system is not accountable to the people ... so what we are opting and hoping for is to change the constitution and go for a parliamentary system,” Abdullah said.

Asked if this meant he would endorse the creation of a prime minister if he won the presidency, Abdullah said: “Yes...a prime ministerial system.”

“The people are stuck with governors who are being moved from one province to another when they fail and then to the next and finally if there are no more excuses to keep them as governors, they will be promoted as minister-advisers,” he added.

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U.S. authorities have urged Karzai to create a new executive post to help improve day-to-day governance in Afghanistan, but the president “has made no decision on it,” his chief spokesman Humayoun Hamidzada said earlier this month.


Defections have left the opposition in disarray as the election, once seen as wide-open, approaches. U.S. criticism of Karzai’s government also appears to have been muted and Karzai is now clearly ahead.

But Abdullah, who was Foreign Minister from 2001 to 2004 and is running on an independent ticket, dismissed rumors that he would also pull out of the race to endorse Karzai.

He accused the incumbent of political opportunism for allying with former opposition leader Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who was a mujahideen commander and has been accused of involvement in serious human rights abuses during the past three decades.

In April Fahim threw his support behind Karzai and was chosen as one of two deputies running on his ticket in the August poll.

The U.N. mission head in Afghanistan begged Karzai not to choose Fahim as a running mate because of his past as a “known warlord” with a “history of human rights violations,” a source close to the diplomat said earlier this month.

Abdullah said he had met U.S. government delegates -- who are widely considered to have thrown their weight behind Karzai in the previous 2004 poll -- to discuss the elections and how to ensure their credibility.

“They emphasized they are not supporting any one candidate and they are not opposing any candidate, and I tend to believe them so far,” Abdullah said.

Editing by Charles Dick