AREU Synthesis Paper Series
proceedings are very different. This has resulted in a number of “mid-level” MPs becoming significantly disgruntled at decisions made by party leaders on their behalf, since they feel they should officially have the ability to make such decisions for themselves.91 For these mid-level MPs—and respondents for this study, as discussed below—it appears that whatever other concerns they may have about the equalising nature of democracy, a desire for equality in resource distribution and access to decision-making remains key.
Some are more equal than others: Equality not delivered, even if desired
For many, there is thus a fundamental problem with the equalising nature of a democratic politics in terms of representation—who is able to vote, who can stand as a candidate, and fundamentally, what representation should actually comprise. However, this exists side by side with a contrasting desire for equality in access to political decision-making, service provision and resources. The need for greater political and economic equality was particularly notable in transcripts from Nimroz, possibly as a result of its remoteness from the centre:
The implementation of democracy is currently not good in Afghanistan because our people in Nimroz are uneducated and poverty has increased. For this reason democracy doesn’t have any meaning here...If people were able to be free of oppression and cruelty and defend their rights, then real democracy would be implemented.
Male head of NSP shura, semi-urban Nimroz
There is a big gap between the people and the government, which is getting bigger each day. When someone goes to a government office, it
takes weeks for him to finish his work there—but if they give money to the government officials, they can finish their work in an hou . This is why
Pre-Election Politics and the Appearance of Opposition” (Kabul: AREU,
there is an increasing gap between the people and the government.
Male 11th grade student, rural Nimroz
I think that the MPs of our province are weak and do nothing for the people of the province. After they were successful in the elections they didn’t come back to the province to ask about the problems of the people. We don’t have electricity to see what goes on in parliament, but we see clearly with our own eyes that they do nothing for us here...If the MPs were not weak, why would the budget that was allocated for Nimroz be spent on Badakhshan instead? Why was the one million dollars allocated for our province stolen by unknown people?92
Female teacher, rural Nimroz
This sense of being left out or excluded from the benefits that a democratic political system might bring to others is not limited to Nimroz, and was apparent in interviews from all provinces across both phases of the study. Particular issues vary across provinces: in Parwan and Nimroz, trends focus on the lack of electricity and drinking water; in Nangarhar, administrative corruption features more strongly; and in Ghazni, the lack of security. However, these separate complaints were all framed by a critical lack of trust in the institutions of power, unhappiness with the lack of a level playing field, and a sense that the rich determine the rules of the game. Even when communities do manage to elect representatives to parliament, there is a clear perception that accountability of these representatives toward their constituents is missing, and that anyone who is voted in will work exclusively for their own benefit:
The parliament of Afghanistan hasn’t worked according to the people’s demands. They only think about how they can get a high salary and a house from the state, and they don’t think about poor people in Afghanistan.
Male teacher, rural Nimroz
Which government? And what democracy? I can’t call this situation democratic, there has
92 Numbers related here are emblematic rather than factually accurate.