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Afghanistan, Government

Until the 1960s Afghanistan’s king and the king’s relatives dominated the central government, though the royal family had to keep the support of conservative ethnic and religious leaders. In 1963, for the first time, a prime minister was appointed from outside the royal family because it was thought that it was not in the best interests of the country or the dynasty for close members of the royal family to be too closely identified with policymaking. In 1964 a new constitution provided for a division of powers between the chief executive and an elected parliament. Political parties were never legalized under the monarchy.

In 1973 military officers led by Muhammad Daud overthrew the king and proclaimed Afghanistan a republic. In 1978 Afghanistan came under Communist rule when the military overthrew Daud and installed Noor Muhammad Taraki, who was overthrown and killed in September 1979 by Hafizullah Amin and his supporters. In December 1979 the Soviet Union mounted a full-scale invasion of the country, killed President Amin, and installed Babrak Karmal as the president. In 1987 the Soviet-backed Communist government issued a new constitution providing for a president to be indirectly elected to a seven-year term; Sayid Mohammad Najibullah was elected president. The constitution also created a bicameral (two-house) National Assembly (Meli Shura), which consisted of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The People’s Democratic Party controlled the government, but 50 of the 234 seats in the House of Representatives were reserved for opposition parties. Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 and the overthrow of the Communist regime and Najibullah in April 1992, an interim council took power. In December 1992 Burhanuddin Rabbani was elected president by a special Grand Council. The term of Rabbani’s government officially expired in December 1994, but he continued to hold office until September 1996, when the Taliban took the capital and ousted his government.

With the help of U.S. and British forces, the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance captured the capital in November 2001, effectively ending Taliban rule in the country. The United Nations (UN) then began pursuing efforts to establish a broad-based multiethnic government in Afghanistan. In late November Afghan delegates from the country’s major ethnic, religious, and political factions—except the Taliban—began meeting in Bonn, Germany, for UN-sponsored negotiations on the country’s political future. The UN-brokered agreement established a temporary government on December 22, 2001, to run the country for six months. Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, emerged as leader of the interim government. Karzai named a commission to oversee the formation of a loya jirga, or grand council, that would convene within six months to choose a transitional government to govern the country for 18 months, at which time the country was scheduled to hold its first-ever general elections. The loya jirga, a traditional decision-making council, convened in June 2002. It included 1,050 seats for locally elected representatives from the country’s geographic regions and 501 seats for selected delegates, including religious leaders, provincial governors, women, nomads, and Afghan refugees from abroad. Shortly after the loya jirga convened, it elected Karzai leader of the transitional government and interim president of Afghanistan.

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