This entry is part two, following a look at the executive and legislative branches of Afghanistan's government, also found on this blog.
The Provincial Council Law of 2007 is unclear about the authority of these Councils. This has left room for debate. Mainly, the Councils have to elect members to the Mishrano Jirga (Assembly of Elders); "advise and cooperate with the provincial administration on a variety of issues, including development planning;" and "participate in the development of the provinces and the improvement of administrative affairs." (2)
The 34 Provincial Councils have 9 to 29 seats, calculated by population. Candidates run in a single provincial constituency, must be residents of the province, and cannot simultaneously run for both the Wolesi Jirga and the Mishrano Jirga. Constitutionally, a quarter of seats are reserved for women.
Elections for District Councils have not yet been held due to security and administrative barriers. Also, the Wolesi Jirga has yet to finalize the district boundaries, and significant debate remains on this issue.
District Councils are meant to have 5 to 15 seats, calculated by population.
Municipal and Village Councils
Elections for these Councils are on hold for the near future. Uncertainty regarding the authority and other details of the Councils remains and will likely not be resolved in the next few years.
Village Councils are to be elected to 3 year terms though no term limits have been finalized for Municipal Councils and Mayors.
The Electoral System
All Afghan nationals who are at least 18 years-old are eligible to participate in elections. Each elector votes for a single individual in his or her constituency (this system is called the Single Non-Transderable Vote).
Given the skepticism attached to political parties in Afghanistan's culture as well as the novelty of this electoral system for the country, a system in which voters are asked to pick an individual to represent them further enforces the trend away from political parties.
The Judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court, the Appeal Courts, and the Primary Courts. The Attorney General falls under the Executive and is responsible for investigations and prosecutions.
Due to the frequent change in governments and the power of autonomous, sometimes effectively independent factions over the past 30 years, there still exist a significant number of contradictory laws that remain to be harmonized. Furthermore, traditional means of justice still maintain a great deal of their influence, and the civic and traditional mechanisms of justice constitute as yet conflicting and coexisting systems. Jirgas and shuras have often been a means of settling disputes, both civic and criminal. For this reason the civil law empowered under the constitution currently lives alongside traditional laws as well as Islamic sharia laws. These systems are often at odds on matters of criminal law and their means of enforcement. Efforts are being made to actualize the primacy and even monopoly of civil law.
The Supreme Court is the most senior of the Judiciary's three branches, and has the broadest set of powers, touching on most anything that can be interpreted under the constitution. Its decisions, concluded by majority vote, are the final say on legal matters. The Supreme Court oversees all policy decisions by other courts, and manages all courts’ budgets and staff.
The Supreme Court has 9 members, appointed for 10 year terms, 6 of which are required to meet quorum. Appointments are made by the President and must meet the Wolesi Jirga's consent. Of the 9, the President selects one as the Chief Justice.
Primary Courts are divided into 5 jurisdictions: the central provincial courts, juvenile courts, commercial courts, family issues courts, and district courts. All civil and criminal trials are first brought before a Primary Court. In case of dispute, the case can go before an Appeal Court, which may also decide to pass on the case to the Supreme Court. Critics argue that the large number of appeals currently in process undermine the smooth functioning of the courts and unduly slow down the process.
The Appeals Courts review disputed rulings of the Primary Courts and have the authority to "correct, overturn, amend, confirm or repeal these rulings and decisions." (3)
Also see a profile of Afghanistan's Army and Police for more information.
The vast majority of the information in this report comes from The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit's "The A to Z Guide." To learn greater detail on Afghanistan's state structure, the international agreements that affect it, and the international organizations that are shaping it, refer to the The A to Z Guide.
(2) Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), 2008. "The A to Z Guide to Afghanistan Assistance," sixth edition.