The Afghan parliament approved both the foreign and justice ministers on Saturday in the first round of voting for President Hamid Karzai's second slate of cabinet nominees but rejected a third and was expected to vote down more.
But half of Hamid Karzai's second list of cabinet nominees were rejected.
With 16 of the 17 ministers in the second list voted on, parliamentarians had approved seven and rejected nine.
A key lawmaker said he expected the majority of Karzai's nominees not to make it through the parliament, delivering a blow to his authority at a critical time for his country.
In an embarassing development, it also emerged on Saturday that the nominee for the ministry of rural development was underage, a government official said. The candidate was 31 years old while under the constitution the minimum age is 34.
More than two months after being re-elected in an August poll, Karzai has been under intense pressure from his Western backers, and frustrated Afghans, to choose ministers deemed clean and competent.
More than two-thirds of Karzai's first list was rejected by parliament early this month. He will have to go back to the drawing board to replace those from his second list who are rejected and risks going to the London conference on Jan. 28 without a full government.
"I am sitting with at least 25 members of parliament right now and we are talking about the cabinet," said Daoud Sultanzoy, MP for eastern Ghazni province. "Our expectation is that we will see maybe five or six at most who will pass. Maybe not even that."
The first to come to vote and most senior was Zalmay Rasul, a former Karzai security advisor who was approved as foreign minister. The justice minister was also approved, but less senior positions appeared to be vulnerable.
Sultanzoy said many of the candidates could be rejected because they presented weak programmes to parliament or seemed only interested in personal gain.
"One of the things that I think is very disturbing is that some of the people that were introduced were coming with political baggage, with political influence from those circles who are seeking influence in the government," Sultanzoy said, declining to give names.
Among the most promising candidates on Karzai's new list were a record three women candidates, who were added after the president was heavily lobbied by Afghan women's rights activists. There was only one woman in both the outgoing cabinet and Karzai's original list.
Seven key ministers, including those for the defence, finance and interior portfolios, were approved at the beginning of the month, mostly incumbents widely liked by the West.
A spokesman for Karzai said earlier this week the president had a third list of nominees to replace any who might be rejected.
ReutersLast Mod: 17 Ocak 2010, 10:25