Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan
3. Methodology and Provincial Contexts 3.1 Methodology Sampling: Phase one
This research was conducted in two phases—the first between January and July of 2009, and the second during the same period in 2010. The second phase was added as a means to extend the scope of the research, in terms of both geographical area and the changing social political context over the course of 18 months. The two-phase approach allowed comparisons to be made pre- and post- 2009 elections, particularly significant in terms of assessing the impact of fraudulent and widely publicised presidential and PC polls on perceptions of democratic representation.
First phase data was collected in rural and urban areas of Kabul, Balkh and Parwan Provinces. These provinces were initially selected due to their relative security, which allowed for easy access by the research team. Kabul and Balkh were also chosen for their key urban centres, with Parwan as a rural contrast (albeit one closely connected to centres of political and economic power due to its proximity to Kabul and position on a major north-south trade route). Members of the research team were familiar with these provinces having conducted previous research in these locations, and hence were able to draw from a broader range of existing knowledge. In each province, interviews were conducted in one urban and one rural district location to ensure a mixed data set.
The approach also allowed comparisons to be made between preparations for two sets of different national elections—the presidential and PC elections in August 2009, and the parliamentary elections in September 2010. Collecting data in two consecutive electoral years meant that respondents were more likely to be familiar with the country’s institutions of democratic representation due to their visible presence in the form of campaigns and advertisements for candidates and elections in most areas. In this context, a lack of familiarity with such institutions could also serve to determine people’s level of isolation from activities at the political centre in Kabul.
Finally, the structure allowed for improvements and amendments to the methodology used in the first phase, such as fixing gaps in the interview guide, which will be discussed in more detail below. Initial dissemination workshops were conducted in between the two phases in order to gather feedback from stakeholders and key informants about the findings from the first phase. Their comments were then taken into account and used to improve the methodology used in the second phase.
A total of 36 individual qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted in the first phase, along with 33 focus group discussions (FGDs) of 3-15 respondents each. A sample of men and women of different ethnicities and social backgrounds was used. Respondents interviewed included teachers, students, religious scholars, civil society representatives, traders, community leaders and political party members. The majority of interviews were conducted with respondents who had at least primary education if not more. Few respondents were illiterate, and thus a significant part of the Afghan population was not represented in the first phase. While the sampling design specified that an equal number of literate and illiterate respondents should be targeted, the research team was often referred by the government officials giving permission for the study to those they considered most able to answer questions.
Sampling: Phase two
The second phase was designed to compensate for the limitations in the sampling from the first phase. Accordingly, three further provinces with