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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:

Connecting With Kabul: The Importance of the Wolesi Jirga Election and Local Political Networks in Afghanistan

This paper argued that the international community needed to pay more attention to the 2010 parliamentary election—not only for the precedents it would set in attempts to promote representational governance in Afghanistan, but, more pressingly, because of the ability of Read More

Lasting Peace Requires Accountable Political Institutions

An AREU statement on the importance of elections in Afghanistan, made following the 2010 London Conference.

The Wolesi Jirga in 2010: Pre-Election Politics and the Appearance of Opposition

This brief provides some of the initial findings of AREU’s study on parliamentary functions and dynamics. It summarises initial findings based on data collected from semi-structured interviews with a sample of over 50 MPs comprising different backgrounds, provinces, genders, ethnicities, Read More

Losing Legitimacy? Some Afghan Views on the Government, the International Community, and the 2009 Elections

Following the confusing conclusion to Afghanistan’s 2009 election season, an immediate international concern was the extent to which the process had damaged the legitimacy of the Afghan government. But to what extent did the presidential elections of 2009 actually damage Read More

Voting Together: Why Afghanistan’s 2009 Elections were (and were not) a Disaster

This briefing paper analyses voter patterns and attitudes from three areas of Kabul Province, finding some positive signs amidst the general disarray of Afghanistan’s 2009 electoral process. At a local level, the elections did result in the changing of balances Read More

Toward an Afghan Democracy? Exploring Perceptions of Democratisation in Afghanistan

Despite all of the attention being paid to Afghanistan’s controversial elections, one important question has gone largely unasked: What do Afghans think about democracy? This question is deeply relevant to Afghanistan’s future, and is at the heart of this AREU Read More

Patronage, Posturing, Duty, Demographics: Why Afghans Voted in 2009

What explains the levels of both participation and enthusiasm during the 2009 elections in Kabul Province? Although some voters were motivated by a sense of national duty, and a desire to take part in the democratic process, the majority voted Read More

Elections in 2009 and 2010: Technical and Contextual Challenges to Building Democracy in Afghanistan

This report from assessed preparations for and attitudes toward the 2009 and 2010 elections. Focusing on two major factors—technical processes and contextual issues—the paper pointed out key actors in the elections and the steps they could take to resolve difficulties Read More

A Matter of Interests: Gender and the Politics of Presence in Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga

More than one quarter of the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s National Assembly are reserved for women, but this creation of political space has not resulted in the substantive representation of their collective gender interests. This issues paper argues that the Read More

A House Divided? Analysing the 2005 Afghan Elections

Afghanistan’s new National Assembly faced many challenges to ensure it didn’t repeat past parliamentary problems. This paper examined how the campaign was fought and won across the provinces, highlighting potential divisions likely to impede the effective functioning of the legislature.