29th January 2005
After being delayed from this past May, the elections for the lower house of Parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, is on track to be held on September 16. Elections were delayed due to dissent rising from the fraudulent presidential elections and an upswing in violence.
There are 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, filled by single non-transferable vote. 10 of these seats are reserved for Kuchi nomads who vote in their own national constituency. 64 seats must be filled by females.
While Afghanistan's political system is such that the president and the executive hold a lot more power than the parliament, the make up in the Wolesi Jirga is important to get an idea of the make up of power in Afghanistan.
Observers will be watching this election for a number of reasons, most importantly to see the support Karzai still has and Afghanistan's ability to conduct these elections. Some information and factors:
-Warlords have a lot of influence in Afghanistan. Most candidates outside of Kabul are related to a warlord due to their influence in provinces outside of Kabul, where the central government has little power. Most organizations and politics tie back to the warlords, and are rooted in factions of the Mujaheddin and later the anti-Taliban opposition that made up the Northern Alliance.
-Officially members of the Wolesi Jirga are non-partisan. No one can run under a party, and as such all are formally independent. That being said some candidates are connected to a party and helped by them. Parties by extension are usually fronts for warlords, so in the end warlords are still having influence on the process.
-Due to the above, it is hard to describe the allegiances of the members of the Wolesi Jirga as we can in other countries. In 2005 observers believed that it could be said that there were three "blocks" in parliament- pro-government, opposition, and unaligned with about 80 members each.
Politically most members are conservative and rooted in religious belief.
As a MP noted in 2009,
There are three groups in the Wolesi Jirga. One is the majority of MPs who are pro-government and accept whatever the government says to them...The second is made up of about 70 MPs who are in the opposition, and the third is made up of about 20 MPs who are impartial or independent and whose alliance often depends on the power balance in parliament at the time.
However a lot has changed since 2005, 2009, and indeed in the past few weeks. Reflective of Afghanistan's often chaotic and shifting allegiances, many members of parliament are beginning to gravitate towards placing themselves in opposition to Karzai, noting popular sentiment against the his administration.
-Individuals suspected of being connected to the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan and the Democratic Watan Party of Afghanistan, offshoots of the old ruling Communist party of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan/Republic of Afghanistan (The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan), are forbidden from running.
-Individuals suspected of being connected to the Afghanistan Liberation Organization are forbidden from running.
-Individuals suspected of being connected to the Taliban or related groups are forbidden from running.
-Security: A test of Afghanistan's strength will be seeing how smoothly these elections can be carried out. Interference from Taliban or warlords, to undermine the strength of the new government. The electoral commission is estimating that possibly 15-20% of polling stations may not be able to open.
-Fraud: The last presidential elections that saw Karzai's re-election was plagued by allegations of fraud- ballot stuffing, vote rigging, destruction of ballots, etc. Whether this election will be able to avoid this will remain to be seen, especially considering the rivalries of Karzai and his supporters and opposing warlords.
Depending on the outcome of this election, the warlords can send a message to Karzai about his administration. More and more warlords have begun to oppose Karzai, so how results will be received by Karzai's administration in event of a good showing for his rivals will be interesting.
More importantly will be turn out rates, as a way to see whether the Afghani people feel their government is legitimate and carrying out its functions. Considering widespread corruption and undermining by warlords, what Afghanis choose to do will either be reflective of whether they are confident in the prospects of representative democracy or not.
29th January 2005
Well, as far as I can see turnout was unsurprisingly low, though considering the circumstances it was admirable, going about 20-25% depending on sources. Lots of attacks, at least 28 people dead. Reports of harassment and voting irregularities and fraud. When the results will come later this month or in October, it will be remain to be seen if people respond to it in the same manner that the fraudulent Presidential elections were carried out under.