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AREU Synthesis Paper Series

adherence to the principles of accountability they had talked about during elections. However, they also demonstrate some of the key assumptions on which democratisation efforts (or more specifically, the holding of elections) have been based, which are outlined in detail below.

2.1

Underlying assumptions of Afghanistan’s democratisation process

The assumption that democratisation breeds stability is indicative of international approaches to post-conflict contexts and represents a recognised doctrine of intervention.30 Other examples of this approach in practice include the Balkans and East Timor, where elections have been instigated by an external mission such as the United Nations soon after the end of civil conflict as a means to bring about power-sharing agreements largely considered legitimate by the populace. In theory, this narrative of inclusion is entirely laudable, promoting at least the semblance of equal access to resources and power. In practice, however, this is not always experienced by the population on the ground. As pointed out above, the installation of new democratic institutions in a post-conflict setting rarely occurs on a blank slate and there are always existing powerholders with vested interests (and considerable skill) in moulding the system to their own advantage. As the Bonn Process took place, it became increasingly evident that it was being used by members of the largely non-Pashtun Northern Alliance to re-establish their power bases—an opportunity made easier with the exclusion of Taliban representation and with the moral high ground that fighting the Taliban and appearing on the winning side bought them in the eyes of the

30 See JEMB, “Final Report: Elections 2005,” which states as its introductory sentence, “The achievement of the presidential election on 9 October 2004 and the appointment of a new cabinet brought new momentum to the Afghan peace process.” For a broader example, see United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Report 2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 1. For a critical analysis of this assumption, especially in the case of identity-based conflicts, see Sunil Bastian and Robin Luckham (eds), Can Democracy be Designed? The Politics of Institutional Choice in Conflict-torn Societies (London and New York: Zed Books, 2003), 37-51.

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international community.31 Notably absent at Bonn were large-scale organised Pashtun groups; Tajiks and other northern-based minorities had fought in a much more organised and coordinated manner than their Pashtun counterparts who were still fractured across tribal and other dividing lines. Even nine years on, with large-scale Pashtun representation in the cabinet, a narrative of Pashtun exclusion nevertheless remains as a result of the perceived

favouritism toward other groups at Bonn.

While the ideals of power-sharing democratic means were thus admirable

through in their

intent, in Afghanistan they served to rubber stamp resource capture by pre-existing powerholders who were able to use the language of post-Taliban “liberation” and democracy to their distinct advantage. This is not to say that the Bonn Process should not have happened, nor that the establishment of democratic institutions in the aftermath of conflict is not a worthy goal. However, it should be acknowledged that the assumption in narratives of democratisation that all players will be re-established on a new, level playing field through elections is a dangerous one. This is especially true in post conflict contexts, where civil conflict over land and resources, for example, can leave deep-seated social inequalities made more concrete by the justice vacuum that inevitably occurs during war.

The second assumption on which democratisation assistance often rests is that the transition to a democratic state will generate economic growth and development. As one commentator has written, “liberal democracy has come to be seen by the mainstream development community as central for economic, political and social development over the past decade.”32 This perspective has been put

31

This

is

not

to

say

that

it

would

have

been

possible

to

bring

the

Taliban to the negotiating table at this time. As has been noted by one

commentator,

the

group

were

portrayed

by

then

US

President

George

Bush as enemies

to

protected Osama

Bin

international security, having Laden. Including them in peace

hosted Al Qaida talks would thus

likely have been Bijlert of Afghan

unthinkable (author’s Analysts Network).

conversation

with

Martine

Van

32

Lisa Horner, “How and Why Has Multiparty Democracy Spread Over

the Last 100 Years, and What Difference Has it Made to the Lives of the

Poor?”

(Oxford:

Oxfam

International,

2008).

http://www.oxfam.org.

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