Democracy has still long way to take roots in Afghanistan

Date of Publication : Tuesday 21 July 2009 13:13
Democracy has still long way to take roots in Afghanistan
By Hadi Mayar
Kabul, July 20  -- Electioneering is taking pace in Afghanistan as the date for presidential and provincial council polls is drawing closer, yet the enthusiasm is still needed at the public level.

"The enthusiasm Afghans displayed for months before the 2004 elections is sadly absent (in the 2009 elections)," a survey published about the Afghan presidential election said last week.

The survey, published by Canada's largest publication firm, Can west Global Communications Corp, further said: "Voters' hopes have been shattered, expectations not met. This is not only in material terms -- food, jobs, housing -- but they face deteriorating human security, an increased Taliban threat, criminal incursions and little respite from drug lords' and warlords' overbearing presence."

There are widespread accusations of administrative corruption, lack of governance, and rampant insecurity in the country while the Taliban insurgency is constantly rising.

Social-economic and political development of Afghanistan is high on the agenda of the United States and its international allies, yet little can be seen on the ground. While peace is elusive in the country, job opportunities are very scanty, forcing people to seek livelihood in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries.

Latest media reports showed that Afghans now increasingly oppose the presence of foreign forces in their country as these forces could neither contain the Taliban insurgency, nor ensure infrastructure development in the country.

The main expectation from the international forces was to end warlordism and lay a foundation for civil society in Afghanistan. That goal still remains in pipe dream

A focus group discussion conducted by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit recently found that there was a general consensus that democracy does not exist in Afghanistan.

"There are only slogans of democracy. Warlords have too much influence over government," the participants observed.

However, the dismal state of affairs does not mean that democracy has not prospects at all to flourish in Afghanistan.

Despite the gloomy picture, a silver lining does exist on the horizon of Afghanistan as the people have always demonstrated a taste and patience for democracy.

While many Muslim countries of the region have hardly been digesting democratic tendencies, Afghanistan had an appetite for it even half a century ago.

A study conducted by the Montreal-based Global Research Group said: "Contrary to the propaganda from the mass media, Afghanistan has a tradition of representative, constitutional democracy that goes back in history. Political parties were recognized under the 1964 Constitution."

Afghanistan had a secular democratic constitution even in 1964,it added.

"Today there are over 80 registered political parties, and there are around 50 broad based democratic parties committed to running on issues, rising above religion, ethnic ties, and regional loyalties," the Global Research study said.

It added: "What the Afghan people want and need is the democratic right to self-determination: the right to choose their own government, their own institutions, and their own economic development strategy."

A public opinion survey, done by the Asia Foundation, revealed a strong commitment of the majority of Afghans to personal freedom, peace, democratic government, and respect for a system of rights and laws.

Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan Foreign Minister said at a recent discussion at the Center for American Progress that the massive constitutional, executive, and parliamentary changes that have occurred in the country in the last seven years can serve as evidence of democratic advancement.

He added: "More than 500 newspapers, 20 private television channels, 80-90 radio stations, and numerous interest groups--especially women's--are all pushing Afghanistan toward democratization. These media outlets continue to be key to engaging the public and overcoming the hurdles of the past."

"Democracy is not only desirable for Afghan people; it is a necessity in order to overcome the fundamentalist legacy," Spanta observed.
Story Code: 37868