Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Voting Along Ethnic Lines: A Democratic Practice Guided by Ethnic Patterns

On 20th October 2018, Afghanistan would hold its third elections of Wolsi Jirga and first elections of District Councils since the democratic opening in 2001. The assessment of people voting behavior shows that, they will vote along the ethnic lines once more. The experience of the conflict prone countries including Afghanistan shows that, there are internal unrests and public dissatisfactions after the elections in these countries. For instance, Afghnistan’s presidential election in 2014 was plunged into crisis after Dr. Abdullah asked for halting to vote counting, suspended cooperation with election authorities and called for a UN commission to mediate over cases of “blatant fraud”. The same crisis had happened in the previous presidential election as well. As the voting pattern not only has not changed but also has been empowered in the country, it is not difficult to foresee the recurrence of such crisis for the Wolsi Jirga and District Councils in Afghanistan.
However, the question that requires to be answered is that, why the Afghans vote along ethnic lines?
The ultimate answer to this question may be: ethnicity. But I believe ethnicity is not the only significant marker in our politics. Social scholars hold that there are causal mechanisms behind Afghan electoral behavior. Socio-economic policies and issues affecting the economic well-being of groups, communities or individuals are equally important factors behind the Afghan voting patterns that cause post electoral crisis in the country.
As a rule, the pre-election campaign in Afghanistan is marked by a political rhetoric with strong ethnic undertones and a mobilization that divides the country along ethnic lines. It is evident that the election discourse of the candidates is not focused on the national interests and national level priorities. This approach just will push the politicians to further incite the people around ethnic priorities and rhetoric. As a result, the politicians shall highlight the demands of their ethnic group that have not been met by government. According to the studies, the end-result of an ethnic electoral battle is that the voters are driven exclusively by ethnic grudges and loyalties. Then the electoral violence with an ethnic character is usually imminent.
The reaction of the International community in general is mixed; some of them react with surprise and shock to the events following the election, others interpret them simply as the inevitable culmination of political tensions that had been developing for decades in the country. In conflict-prone countries the uproar and ethnic violence is not however something new, except perhaps for the scale of it. And the international media usually cover up the post-election violence as an ethnic conflict. 
Although there certainly is an ethnic dimension to the conflict arising after the general elections, the fundamental issues are more complex than just ethnicity. Social scholars assume that “violence is a process, not an event. Based on this violent acts could be impulsive, but they are more often the product of a longer sequence of historical decisions and political actions”. There is a consensus that what usually triggers the post election violence in Afghanistan is a flawed election with wide spread fraud across the country.
What is evident is that elections and elections results are vital to the Afghan people. They consider it a political framework that can ensure their representation in the government. This representation can ensure their relative to the national scarce resources, policy making decisions that have direct and indirect impacts on their current and future life.
The electoral violence in Afghanistan and its reasons are the negative consequences of the wrong policies of the governments of Afghanistan in the past. Such policies not only have further dividend the Afghan citizens along the ethnic lines but have acted as a main barrier against shaping a national interest line: a line with huge potentials to mobilize and unite all Afghan citizens pursuing one shared goal to live in peace, harmony and have a prosperous country. Reaching to this dream is not impossible. There have been many countries in the world with the same problems which our country is facing today. What they have done is acknowledging to the wrong ethnic policies pursued in the past and implementing a holistic and broad based nation building policies aiming at including all the nation in the national processes, equal distribution of resources and opportunities among all their citizens to ensure their socio-economic well being.