Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

Ethnicity and Electoral Behavior in Afghanistan

Ethnicity is one of the strong social fabric of Afghan society. It involves the common consciousness of shared origin and tradition among a group of people. Ethnicity in a traditional society plays a dominant role in many social aspects and is a determinant of the ethnic group behavior.
Ethnicity is seemingly experienced in every facet of our national life and has also been blamed for the many conflicts that have befallen Afghanistan. Such problems as electoral malpractice and inability to practice democratic governance have their basis, to a large extent, in ethnicity. In the past, military incursion into politics is seen in some cases to be ethnically motivated. Another example is the issue of census in Afghanistan, which has never been successfully conducted due to ethnic politics.
Ethnicity has remained a serious problem in the development of our Nation. We see it comes to play often in issues such as employment into the central government civil service and in admission into institutions of higher education. It is common phenomenon in the Afghan society to see a section or sector or its higher echelons dominated by people of a particular ethnic group.
However, these acts are largely perpetuated in the name of the ethnic groups, just as the phenomenon of ethnicity cannot be said to be peculiar to one group. Rather it is widespread and every ethnic group in Afghanistan is guilty of it in various ways and in varying degrees. Ethnic nationalism has earned us unforgettable and bitter experience such as bloodbath of the 1970s of the civil war and other civil unrests, which have had a heavy toll on human lives.
Ethnic conflict or ethnic politics has long been recognized as one of the more fundamental threats to institutional stability, political order and state cohesion in multi-ethnic societies of the third world including Afghanistan. This is not to imply that ethnicity is just a third world or parochial phenomenon. There are few places on earth where ethnic politics cannot be found. Ethnic conflict just as we have in the third world like Afghanistan, so also it exists in the developed countries, conflicts such as that between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Thus, ethnicity has played a devastative role in Afghanistan. Many Afghan citizens have been killed based on their ethnicity in the past. Many Afghans are indirectly denied their rights in Afghanistan even now.
Ethnicity plays a vital role in elections. However, the view that Afghanistan electoral choice is largely based on ethnic considerations as the elections of  the first republic. Afghan ethnic groups largely voted to their ethnic candidates in first Afghan parliamentary and presidential elections. However, as the fourth presidential elections showed, the electoral behavior of the Afghan citizens has been seriously undermined by the electoral trends of the aborted Third Republic and the present Fourth Republic. In the fourth Afghan presidential elections, candidates won appreciably in areas outside their ethnic homelands in some instances and in others, some lost in their own ethnic localities. From the foregoing, one would be tempted to assume that ethnic nationalism as previously exhibited in the country in voting patterns, is fast becoming outdated in the more recent Afghanistan in political process. 
Ethnic politics is one of the Afghan political behaviors that have acted as one of the main barriers to nation building in Afghanistan. Consequently, ethnic politics has been one of the main causes of instability in the country in the past. Afghan governments have taken specific measures to address the ethnic divide in Afghanistan. However, these efforts have not been much successful because they have remained on the policies. To strategically curb the ethnic politics and conflicts in Afghanistan, Afghan leaders shall change their mindset about the Afghan ethnic groups and Afghan politics; they shall consider all Afghan as equal citizens as it has been enshrined in the Afghan constitution. The political behavior of Afghan citizens show that they tend to support those political leaders that see all the ethnic groups as the equal members of the society and they vote to those candidates as well.