Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Political Behaviour and Voting Pattern in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, throughout history, has held different types of democratic elections, from a Loya Jirga to choose the King in the 1700s, the 2010 Parliamentary Elections through which the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House)members  were elected, to the 2014 Presidential Elections through which the new Afghan President was elected. However, the state of democracy and issue-based politics has fluctuated over the years. In 1949, a political liberalization movement resulted in relaxed media censorship, and the birth of opposition groups. According to analysts, the election in 1949, ‘Liberal Parliament’ was distinctly less controlled than ever before. A government crackdown in the early 1950s however, ended liberalization and more conservative politics emerged. Amidst occupation, and civil war, progress in the development of electoral systems stagnated, political parties were seen as dangerous, and decision-making within an Islamic Framework was favored.
In the last years, the 2001 Bonn Agreement paved the way for a new Constitution, new electoral law, and five elections. While these instances of reform and process represent electoral progress, there have also been innumerous complaints of insecurity, violence, intimidation, and fraud, which have raised doubts about the legitimacy and power of the current electoral system. 
Thus, political participation and democratic culture in Afghanistan as a concept is one that is ridden with grievances and fears of isolation that fuels the struggle for central power by different ethnic groups. As a result, this struggle negatively affects electoral activities in the area of malpractices like thuggery, rigging and other political electoral violence, which is replete in party politics in Afghanistan. Democratic culture of any country to a large extent determines their political participation. A culture of democracy must reflect the norms and values that place a premium on the freedom of individuals.
Based on the historical background of democratic elections in Afghanistan, three main propositions on voting behavior are identified to have included Sociological Approach; party identification model and rational choice.
The sociological model emphasizes on voting behavior as a result of impact of social structure suggesting that social group membership influence voting behavior of the Afghans. This is visible in Afghan context where belonging to a religious group or ethnic group or certain geographical area determines voters’ behavior in an election. Belonging to a particular social group automatically qualifies a candidate to receive votes of such members of that group. In particular, presidential and National Assembly elections in Afghanistan are understood along that line.
The party identification approach is a situation where partisanship is highly stable over time. Here, voters are less likely to make distinctions between their vote choice and partisan dispositions. This situation is also applicable within Afghanistan context where some sections of the population became attached to a given political party irrespective of the candidate as a result of their partisan position towards that particular party.
The rational choice approach lays much emphasis on voters’ choice of their candidates in an election based on issues and policy design of the political parties. The choice here is rational. This situation, however, is not obtainable in Afghan system except to a smaller extent and even this one; is found among elites who chose their party or candidates due to the ethnic, religion, economic or political benefits they will gain from voting such candidates. But, common voter in Afghan democracy has no rationality in choice as they tend to vote according to sentiments.
The role played by ethnicity and religion in democratization process in Afghanistan is harmful to the system. Social scholars argue that, the tremendous effects of ethnic and religious crises faced by Afghanistan in the current phase of democratization are the outcome of the elite’s manipulation of ethnic and religious identity. This has been associated with the problems of historical configuration of the country, the nature of political class and the manner in which they struggle. This has led to an exclusive nature of the politics of ethnic and religious identity among different groups in the country. This has affected the political behavior of the electorates to align themselves with ethnic and religious political parties. This in return affects voting pattern during any elections whether Presidential, National Assembly, or Local Councils elections.
In summary, the Afghan democratic process is that of political behavior and voting pattern where electorates vote for political leaders on the ground of patrimonial and primordial attachment instead of those candidates that can improve their living condition and develop the country through good governance.