Political Parties in Afghanistan
Political Parties in Afghanistan
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
The Unwinnable War: America’s Blind Spots in Afghanistan
The Unwinnable War: America’s Blind Spots in Afghanistan
Briefing 39 / Asia

Political Parties in Afghanistan

As parliamentary elections approach in September 2005, early hopes that a strong, pluralistic political party system would help stabilise Afghanistan's political transition are fading.

I. Overview

As parliamentary elections approach in September 2005, early hopes that a strong, pluralistic political party system would help stabilise Afghanistan's political transition are fading. Karzai government policies, accompanied by an inappropriate voting system, are sidelining the parties at a time when there is increasing popular dissatisfaction with the slow progress in economic reconstruction, rising corruption and continued insecurity. This is worrying since it was marginalisation and intolerance of political opposition that stunted the development of a pluralistic system, and was largely responsible for past violence in Afghanistan. If current laws constraining party functioning are not changed, political stability will be illusory.

In the absence of strong pluralistic and democratic institutions to mediate internal tensions, political bargaining and the competition for power will most likely continue to occur outside the institutions of government. Because of their past shortcomings, however, many Afghans regard political parties with suspicion. Yet, post-Taliban Afghanistan has witnessed the emergence of many small democratic parties that offer a break with this past, and the means to create a stable and democratic parliament. And many Afghans, especially young people, now recognise parties as an essential component of the legal democratic process.

The government of President Hamid Karzai would be best served by bringing any political party, regardless of its political leanings, into the legal fold if it demonstrates a willingness to work peacefully and democratically. In particular, it should:

  • clarify Article 6 of the Political Parties Law relating to ethnic, racial and sectarian discrimination and violence;
     
  • revise the Political Parties Law to remove unnecessary curbs on party formation and functioning and to clarify apparent contradictions with the application of sharia (religious law) regarding women's rights;
  • simplify the registration process;
     
  • ensure an even playing field in the September 2005 parliamentary elections by shifting oversight of parties from the ministry of justice to an independent election commission; and
     
  • support healthy political development by providing government funds to parties so as to reduce the scope for private interests to buy influence, and by facilitating training to enhance the participation of women in the political system.

The government should also urgently reconsider the possibility of amending its decision to conduct the parliamentary elections under the single non-transferable vote (SNTV) system, which is likely to produce unrepresentative results in a country that lacks well-organised parties.

Major donor countries and the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) should support the above measures and should pay special attention to the provision of security for liberal, democratic parties that are operating in an uncertain environment.

Kabul/Brussels, 2 June 2005

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