In my opinion, there are people in parliament who have very few qualifications, but they still hold parliamentary seats. There is no one to question whether they have the necessary education or skills...MPs should hold at least a bachelors degree, because if a person doesn’t know anything himself, how will others benefit from him?
Female student, semi-urban Nangarhar
I think there should be some standards for the candidates for the parliament. The MPs should not have blood on their hands and they should have a good education...[At present] anyone can stand for the elections, there aren’t any standards and no one can stop anyone from becoming a candidate.
Male villager, semi-urban Nangarhar
There are too many candidates and there is no role and limitation for the candidates. Last night I watched TV and it was said that some of the candidates are illiterate. A lady had just registered to run in the election, but she was illiterate. There should be controls and limitations for representatives. Merits, ability, social recognition and education should be a must for the candidates. Those people who have shown their ability and merits, and gained the people’s trust, they can put themselves forward as candidates.
Male shopkeeper, urban Kabul
Our country has been seriously affected by conflict, and because of this most people are uneducated. People in power do not have enough education and often positions are not given to competent people...It would be better if people with ability and education became powerful...Also some of the MPs are uneducated—some of them can’t talk to the media and they sit like guests in parliament with nothing to say. They don’t have any awareness about the law and law-making processes, and this causes some problems in parliament.
Male PC member, urban Nimroz
Evidently, however, this presents a problem in terms of the nature of democratic representation. While the desire to see a capable parliament comprised
Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan
of educated MPs is understandable, imposing educational requirements for candidates would leave even more communities across Afghanistan without representation. Technically speaking, it is more “democratic” to increase representation rather than limit it to the educated elite (although it was limited to male citizens in many countries until relatively recently). Another point of contention of course is the value placed here by urban respondents on formal education, making the assumption that a masters degree, for example, will automatically translate into the ability to represent and legislate. The question of formal education also brings in a demographic dimension in terms of the average age of candidates. Since further education institutions suffered greatly during the war years, there was a gap in the availability of education, meaning that a significant proportion of middle- aged men and women missed out on a university education unless they were able to go abroad to study. The majority of those with bachelors and masters degrees are thus either over 50 or under 25, the latter ineligible for candidacy in any case on account of their age. Most significant, however, is the fact that availability of educational services has always been heavily biased toward urban areas, contributing further to the split between the ruling urban elite and the rural population.
A final problem on the theme of equality expressed frequently by MPs and PC members relates more specifically the nature of Afghanistan’s single non- transferrable vote (SNTV) system. In a conference for political parties and their leaders organised in August 2010, an influential party leader took the opportunity to criticise how, under this system, a person gaining 50,000 votes in the parliamentary elections was treated the same way as a candidate with 1,500 (both were enough to win one of the 33 parliamentary seats for Kabul Province in 2005).90 The outcome has been a parliament in which key party leaders, school teachers, journalists, commanders and district strongmen are thrown together under the same title, even if in reality their levels of personal influence on parliamentary
for political party trainers, 5 August 2010. This complaint formed part
of the speech of a key party leader.