Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, February 27th, 2020

The Fragility of Democracy in Afghanistan

The nascent democracy, emerged in the post-Taliban administration with the endorsement of the democratic constitution, is highly vulnerable. Afghans believed that democracy would ensure their rights and freedoms, but there were many obstacles before its growth and people’s rights and liberties were curtailed on day-to-day basis.
The promise of forming a society void of violence and bloodshed and a community in which all people could exercise their rights and liberties without discrimination, which was stated in the constitution, was not fulfilled for a number of reasons. For the one, corruption continued unabated within the government machinery slowing down the process of democratization and discrediting the country at the global level.
Second, the Taliban ragtag militants were re-grouped and sent back to the country to start their acts of violence and fight against democratic moves. They were trained to trample upon the rights and freedoms of Afghan people and create obstacles before democratization.
Third, law breaking and committing crime with impunity have also weakened democracy, which is strongly linked to corruption. One will commit crime with impunity for either having power or money to give bribe. Strongmen deem themselves beyond law in Afghanistan and break the law without, in most cases, being prosecuted. Meanwhile, those who have wealth and properties also commit crime with impunity.
In Afghanistan, only elections are not capable of ensuring democracy, which are highly symbolic in the country. People are targeted at the ballot boxes and rigging takes place there.
“How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, offers a rich and critical insight on how democracies have been driven to death by elected governments since the end of the Cold War, and not by generals and soldiers. The book states that “today’s democratic backsliding begins at the ballot boxes” not by tanks on the streets. In the same light, one can argue that democracy in Afghanistan was harmed tremendously in election rigging at the ballot boxes. According to general beliefs, high-ranking officials, who take oath to carry out their activities based on moral standard and commitment, are involved in rigging.
In 1992, Rafael Caldera embraced Chaves and the rebels’ cause and said, “It is difficult to ask the people to sacrifice themselves for freedom and democracy when they think that freedom and democracy are incapable of giving them food to eat, of preventing the astronomical rise in the cost of substances, or of placing a definitive end to the terrible scourge of corruption that, in the eyes of the entire world, is eating away at the intuitions of [the country] with each passing day.”
Democracy in Afghanistan is in the throes of similar circumstances since poverty rate, unemployment rate, insecurity, and corruption have increased. In the first presidential and parliamentary elections, a large number of men and women participated with great hope and wishes. However, the number of participants in elections decreased as only one million and so participated in the latest presidential election. The reason is clear. The current democracy is not capable of providing food and security for the populace. A large number of people live below the poverty line and thousands of individuals are unemployed. After all, the unmitigated corruption has compounded their disappointment since Afghan citizens believe that officials are less committed to the nation and prefer their self-interests to those of nation and people. Hence, when democracy is weakened, people will also show less tendency to sacrifice their lives.
Overall, there are many obstacles hampering the growth of democracy in the country. Afghan ordinary people are disappointed with the process of democratization, which is slowed down as a result of the abovementioned facts.
It is believed that if necessary measures are not taken, Afghans will develop negative perception about democracy and are less likely to make sacrifices for the institutionalization of the democracy in the country. As a result, their participation in elections will remain low in the wake of no motivation.
With this in mind, the government has to counter the obstacles before democracy and fight against corruption, poverty, and crime with impunity. Indeed, if the government does not bridge the gap between nation and state through supporting democratic principles and mitigating electoral rigging, the trust deficit will increase putting democracy at a higher risk.
Meanwhile, if democratic principles are not reinforced, the suffering and challenges of Afghan people will not come to an end. It has been proved that only democracy will be a panacea for the problems of Afghan people. With this in mind, both the state and nation have to try for the institutionalization of democracy principles in the country so that people will be able to exercise their rights and freedoms without discrimination.