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AREU Synthesis Paper Series

This said, the key issue with bloc voting in Afghanistan is not so much that it is in some way undemocratic, but that some communities are more able to organise effectively than others, and thus become better represented in decision- making institutions.86 This has been notably the case in Ghazni, where in the 2010 parliamentary elections all eleven of the province’s allocated seats for the Wolesi Jirga were won by Hazara candidates. This created significant concern at the highest levels in the Afghan government and among international policymakers, some of whom at the time suggested coming to a “political solution” (i.e. by somehow changing the results in favour of Pashtun candidates in order to avoid civil conflict) as opposed to a legal one.87 This reaction alone illustrates how the politics of consensus can end up highly problematic when scaled up to a national level, and is not necessarily the source of peaceful dispute resolution it is often portrayed to be.

5.4 Section summary

This section has explored the ways in which democracy, security and stability are discussed and indirectly related to one another by respondents. It has discussed the different ways respondents define security and how this is reflected in their priorities. For inhabitants of insecure areas, the ability to undertake everyday activities is a far higher priority than participating in political processes, while even in more secure areas, the concern with being able to go about one’s own life without being hindered or harassed by others or the government appears paramount. It has also highlighted how respondents’ views on their relationship with the state are complex and sometimes contradictory, combining expectations of service provision with a desire to be left alone.


For more on bloc voting, see Coburn and Larson, “Voting Together.”

87 the

Thomas Ruttig, “2010 Election System,” Afghanistan Analysts

com/index.asp?id=1361 (accessed delay the Independent Election acceptance of the initial results formally challenged.

(39): Ghazni’s Election Drama – It’s Network, http://aan-afghanistan. 10 December 2010). After some Commission (IEC) announced its and (to date) this has not been


In spite of high levels of insecurity in some areas, there is nevertheless still a positive view of the idea of elections, although this did not translate into an increased turnout for the parliamentary elections in 2010. It is also significant that elections in themselves do not appear to be tarnished with the same brush of imperial imposition as “democracy,” and continue to inspire the prospect of participation—even if the likelihood of being able to do so in an insecure environment is minimal. However, insecurity is a key barrier to the development of a political culture in which people might participate in (and consider important) “other political processes,” critical to the process of “democratisation” in the most rudimentary sense of the word. Expanding a focus on insecurity to one of more general instability, it is clear that a politics of competition—as inherent in modern,

liberal democracy—is seen to promote instability rather into positive, political rivalry. consistent marginalisation of by successive governments in

by respondents than channel it In addition, the political parties Afghanistan has

prevented the growth of moderate parties and has contributed to their association by Afghans with violent opposition.

Finally, this section has discussed the problematic nature of a politics of consensus. While this is considered by many respondents to be the most appropriate means of decision-making as a result of its familiarity, tendency to generate peaceful solutions and avoid conflict, it remains highly problematic in its propensity toward elite capture and the promotion of unequal representation. Although the merging of decision- making by consensus with the liberal democratic model of individual votes has been successful for some communities, it has contributed to the marginalisation of others.

The following key points can be determined from the data presented in this section:

  • Respondents living in unstable areas do not prioritise participation in elections or other political processes above the need to go about everyday activities without being harassed or threatened with violence by the insurgents or

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