Sensational Trials to Distract Disenfranchised Voters

An election deadlock at the top of the country, may not have halted all other political processes in the country, but it certainly is continuing to distort them in some disturbing ways.  The biggest piece of news out of Afghanistan in the past weeks other than the election was the horrific group rape that occurred just outside of Kabul on Aug 23.

Seven suspects were tried in a matter of days and sentenced to death on Sept 6.  Two have since been acquitted on appeal, but the rush to judgment appears to have been so fast that Human Rights Watch has since released a statement condemning the lack of due process due to political interference:

“The police and court have responded to Continue reading

Elections in 2015?

The focus of most of the pieces here has been the elections of 2014 and with the current state of uncertainty, there is certainly still much to be decided. We’ve talked some about the long term repercussions of the current vote (see for example this post on opposition politics or this one on potential fallout out), but it might be worthwhile, however, while the recounting continues to start thinking specifically about the scheduled parliamentary vote in 2015. In past Afghan elections, the international community has often began preparing for the vote at the absolute last minute, so the sooner conversations about the next round of voting start taking place, the better prepared everyone will be. With that in mind, here are some key concerns and questions that
we have begun thinking about:

  • Will the vote take place and when: With the current political disarray there could certainly be a case made for postponing the vote. None of the other parliamentary votes have actually taken place when mandated by the constitution (though all still took place within a calendar year), so it stands to reason that they could be pushed back.  With the chaos and perceived manipulation about the elections this year, however, another round of voting that is significantly delayed could cause long term drop in confidence in the electoral process.  An on time election could make 2014 seem more of a blip in the democratic transition.  There will be costs and benefits with each option.
  • Will constitutional changes alter the  Continue reading

Could Corruption be Good for Political Engagement?

Going through a series of interviews, particularly focusing on the increased role that ethnicity seemed to play in this round of voting, but I am more struck by an anecdote that one of our researchers told me about going to the clinic with his mother yesterday.  In the clinic there was both male and female waiting rooms.  His mother was in the female side with a group of fairly poor, uneducated women.  When a new patient came in, she congratulated the rest of the women in the room on the apparent victory of Ashraf Ghani (this was in a Pashtun area primarily supporting Ghani). One of the other women, however, immediately claimed that he was a crook and would only win by stuffing ballots.   A lengthy argument ensued about the relative merits of either candidate, their backgrounds historically and their potential role in corruption.  The argument got so heated that the doctor had to come out and tell people to keep it down.  My research laughed that in this relatively conservative area where women in the past were not even permitted to vote, suddenly you had a political debate going on at a high volume in the doctors office.


Similarly, it might be counterintuitive (and could ultimately backfire), but in the period between campaigns, various Continue reading

The Economic Implications of the Vote

BBCInterviewQRcodeThe April 5 elections don’t just have a political impact, but with the economy in such dire straits, the outcome will have serious consequences for Afghanistan’s economy locally and nationally.  Click on the QR code to listen to Noah discuss the impact the upcoming election could have on the country’s financial stability with the BBC’s World Business Report.


What’s going on in Dasht-e Barchi: a deep dive

Not many areas of Kabul have earned a reputation for mobilizing around elections as much as Dasht-e Barchi. Home to a majority Hazara population, in 2009, 2010 and now 2014 this has been a hotbed of electoral activity. But just what exactly is going on?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the presidential vote centres on the Abdullah campaign, although reasons people give for supporting him include not only his inclusion of old-guard Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqqeq but that he represents a new precedent. As a first non-(or half) Pashtun leader, Abdullah would symbolize a change in the commonly-assumed mantra that only a Pashtun could be president. Following this, many DB residents claim, a Hazara or Uzbek candidate could put up a serious campaign in 2019.

Maybe more interesting in this part of town is the way in which the Provincial Council polls are playing out. As most of DB’s residents are migrants from other parts of Afghanistan – namely, different provinces in the central highlands – much of the political mobilization that goes on takes place around communities that form around these places of origin. This has resulted in a highly localized set of groups that not only stand for entire districts in Bamiyan, Maidan Wardak and Ghazni, for example, but also represent much smaller geographical areas within these districts. And for the PC elections, each smaller area is attempting to put forward one (and only one) candidate to ensure a win for their home town. In a system based on the enormous constituency of an entire province, this is the DB communities’ way of ensuring representation by making their own de facto constituencies.

Also, not many Continue reading