Afghan Biographies

National Assembly (Shura-ye Melli)

Name National Assembly (Shura-ye Melli)
Ethnic backgr.
Date of birth
Function/Grade Background
History and Biodata

The National Assembly (Shura-ye Melli) of Afghanistan consists of two houses, the Wolesi Jirga (House of People) and the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), also known as the Senate. This bicameral model was inaugurated in the 1964 constitution and the stipulation was renewed in the 2004 constitution. The current Wolesi Jirga represents the 16th legislative term since parliament was first established under reformer-King Amanullah (1919-29) (1), and the second legislative term following the collapse of the Taleban regime.

According to the Constitution, the Wolesi Jirga has 249 members and 68 of those seats are allocated to women through a quota system. Currently, however, there are 69 women in parliament as one woman was able to secure enough votes to enter parliament even without this quota. The Constitution stipulates that there must be “at least, on average” two women from each of the 34 provinces (Art 83). Of these 68 seats, three are allocated to Kuchi women.

Members of parliament are elected in a general election every five years – the last election took place in 2010. The one following this should have been held at the latest by June 2015, but has now been scheduled for 15 October 2016.

The overall membership of the current Wolesi Jirga has been reduced from 249 to 246 as a result of terrorist attacks, whereby three MPs were murdered. However, there is a legal provision stipulating that their seats be left open. Between 2005-10, when there was an even higher number of such incidents, victims were simply replaced. The candidate who had secured the next largest number of votes would assume the vacant position. However, given that he/she may have been a political opponent, this practice, which was widely known as the “assassination clause,” was seen as possibly encouraging of such acts. Therefore, this practice was altered and   now only those MPs who die of natural causes are replaced, and only “if more than one year remains until the end of the term of office of Wolesi Jirga.” So far the only MP replaced has been Shahnaz Hemati from Herat province, who died in a car accident. The next female runner up for Herat province, Semin Barakzai, took her seat.

Other replacements of MPs occurred because at least seven MPs from the current parliament resigned ahead of the 2014 presidential elections in order to campaign for presidency or other key positions in the government. The parliament replaced the resigning MPs, including Haji Mohammad Mohaqqeq, Sayyed Ishaq Gailani, Sayyed Hussain Anwari, Abdul Rab Rassul Sayyaf, Shah Abdul Ahad Afzali, Sayyed Hussain Alami Balkhi, and Ibrahim Qasemi. However, later on in 2014, other MPs resigned as well ahead of the second round of the presidential elections because they were hoping for key positions in the new government (such as ministers, for example.) Those who resigned were not replaced, as this parliament entered its last year of tenure.

The Meshrano Jirga has 102 members, three individuals from each of the 34 provinces. A third of them are appointed by the president for a five-year term, but President Ghani has just extended the term of these appointed members until the end of the 16th period of the Wolesi Jirga. The remaining two thirds are elected from both district and provincial councils. The members of each of the 34 provincial councils must elect one parliamentary representative from among themselves, as should all district council members for each province. Half of the president’s appointees should be women. The Meshrano Jirga also has two seats reserved for Kuchi and two seats for the disabled and impaired.

As no district council elections have yet taken place, it was decided on 20 February 2011 by presidential decree (during Hamed Karzai’s tenure) to put in place an interim measure to temporarily fill the missing seats of the district council representatives with 34 provincial council representatives. Thus, instead of selecting only one provincial council representation for the Meshrano Jirga, each provincial council selected two.

However, on 18 January 2015, President Ghani informed the Meshrano Jirga in a letter that “he could not nominate anyone for the Senate seats reserved for district council representatives” – and that therefore the Meshrano Jirga would only consists of 69 members until the district council elections are completed.

Last Modified 2016-02-07
Established 2016-02-07