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Representative Governance

Founder(s): FOSIA
Status: Completed

AREU has produced a number of papers based broadly around the theme of “representative governance,” and conducted a detailed study on the topic during 2009-10. Conducted across a wide variety of locations against a backdrop of elections, the research closely observed electoral dynamics at a local and national level while expanding the focus to include Afghan attitudes to democracy and democratisation in general.
The research has highlighted the gap that frequently separates government from the governed, as well as parliament’s complicated relationship with the president and government ministries. Analysis of political organisations and networks focus on political parties, bloc voting and the shifting political allegiances within parliament itself. It looks in detail at the factors affecting the formation of political alliances, including insecurity, narratives of ethnicity, economic motivations, and the influence of personality politics. Also examined are the often complex popular narratives surrounding the word “democracy” itself. The findings critique the way that international actors have tended to equate “democracy” with “elections” and have not paid adequate attention to the long-term institution building necessary for the establishment of a working democratic system.
AREU has also produced a range of coverage and analysis focusing specifically on electoral processes in 2004-05 and 2009-10. A Guide to Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan provided an in-depth explanation of the processes and legislation behind 2005’s Wolesi Jirga and provincial council elections, and AREU research teams conducted field observation of 41 voting centres during the poll itself. Post-election analysis culminated in A House Divided, a paper that served as a base for AREU’s coverage of the 2009-10 polls; this examined why and how Afghans vote and how elections have related to instability at central and local levels.

Publications from this research project:

Fixing Afghanistan’s Electoral System: Arguments and Options for Reform

Following Afghanistan’s deeply flawed parliamentary election in 2010, calls for electoral reform among both national and international actors have been steadily gaining momentum. One major focus of criticism has been the country’s use of the single non-transferable vote (SNTV) system, Read More

Practicing Democracy in Afghanistan: Key Findings on Perceptions, Parliament and Elections

This policy note summarises the findings of over three years of AREU research into the dynamics of representative governance in Afghanistan at local and national levels. Exploring the three interrelated themes of electorate perceptions, electoral dynamics and parliamentary politics, it Read More

Political Economy of the Wolesi Jirga: Sources of Finance and their Impact on Representation in Afghanistan’s Parliament

Being an MP in Afghanistan is an expensive undertaking. The costs of a successful election campaign can easily reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, to which are added the day-to-day expenses costs of security, staffing, and responding to the demands Read More

Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan

Despite widespread concerns about fraud, foreign interference and ineffectiveness, there remains a clear appetite among many Afghans for a system of democratic representation. However, this must be centred firmly around their own priorities if it is to take lasting root. Read More

Undermining Representative Governance: Afghanistan’s 2010 Parliamentary Election and its Alienating Impact

Instead of bringing citizen and state closer together, the 2010 parliamentary election increased the distance between many Afghans and their government. “Undermining Representative Governance” details this finding, showing that a majority of research respondents are being alienated by a process Read More

The Future of Democratisation in Afghanistan

AREU governance researcher Anna Larson delivered this public lecture on 25 August 2009. In it she explores the future of democratisation in Afghanistan through a synthesis of Afghan perspectives from six provinces.

Governance Structures in Nimroz Province

This case study examined popular perspectives on democracy and governance structures in Nimroz Province—an area far removed from the political centre in Kabul and strongly influenced by its proximity to neighbouring Iran. Its remoteness has left it vulnerable to natural Read More

Afghan Election 2010: Alternative Narratives

Released shortly before the 2010 parliamentary election, this brief examined the undiscussed stories surrounding the vote. It argued that while the media focused on fraud and insecurity, there were other significant narratives being missed by the coverage preceding the polls.

Parliamentarians and Local Politics in Afghanistan: Elections and Instability II

This paper is primarily an ethnographic description of parliamentary political culture at the local level in three provinces in Afghanistan. It finds the role of the MPs and the competition created by elections varies significantly in each of the study Read More

The Wolesi Jirga in Flux, 2010: Elections and Instability I

This paper critically analyses the effects of elections in the current context of 2010, with a specific focus on the Wolesi Jirga, its members and new candidates. It is part of a series on elections in 2009-10. It draws on Read More