Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 21st, 2020

Why Afghan Political Parties have failed to Act as an Instrument of Unity and Development

In recent years, the extreme weakness or sometimes total absence of governance has been identified as a leading factor in Afghanistan’s poor development record and related economic, social and political crises.
Afghanistan like other Central Asian countries, has suffered a serious deficit in governance. Governmental operations, especially under unelected/military regimes, have been lacking in accountability and transparency; rule of law has not prevailed; the trust of citizens in public institutions and authorities has been exceedingly low; participation in the political and policymaking processes has been sporadic and ineffectual; and the legitimacy of regimes and their programs have been woefully inadequate.
The Bonn Agreement of 2001, the return to constitutional rule and multi-party competition provide afresh opportunity to promote good governance in the country. However, with Afghanistan’s history economic and political reforms in mind, and considering the present social, economic and political situation of the country, after return to constitutional and democratic rule will not automatically deliver improvements in governance. The change from “bad “to “good” government, from personal rule to rule of law from arbitrariness to consistency in governmental actions, from apathy to citizen participation in the political and policy processes, as well as the empowerment of civil society and creation of an environment favorable to private sector development, will surely run against the constraints of Afghan political history, the prevailing political culture, and the social and economic conditions. Therefore, all the possibilities offered by effective political leadership, statesmanship, as well as technocratic and intellectual resources of the country would have to be deployed to achieve the goal of establishing democratic governance. 
To those who believe that free political association, free speech and press, as well as decentralization of political and economic power, provide the most solid basis for sustained national unity and development, the return to liberal and multiparty democracy is indeed welcome. But to those who take the view that liberal democracy in general, and multi-partyism in particular, increases the threat to national unity and induces other national calamities, the transition represents an alarming threat.
As in all complex societies, there are many divisions in Afghan society. For example, there are divisions and tensions between the youth and the elderly; along ideological lines between the populists and the elitists, traditionalists and modernists; along class lines between the establishment and anti-establishment groups; and between rural and urban populations. In this case, multi-party system may ethnic gaps in the society instead of closing over time. 
On the whole, parties in Afghanistan have shown an inclination to contribute to the unity and development of the country. However, to fully live up to their promise, the parties must overcome the problems of weak organization, inadequate finance, and policy incoherence that plague them currently. For instance, a stronger research capability will put them in a better position to develop alternatives to government policies and programs, make constructive criticisms, and contribute to the public policy process. Similarly, the development of coherent policies as well as stronger institutional identity would minimize the tendency to personalize the parties around their respective leaderships. It would also reduce their reliance on the ethnic origins of party leaderships as a key basis for canvassing votes. However, in the end, political parties must be around long enough to develop their organizational and research capacities, financial bases and identities. They need to be around long enough to learn from their mistakes and correct them; to learn to live with political victories and defeats; and to learn how to relate to each other and to the electorate at large. That, in turn, depends very much on the survival of the republicanism and its constitution which guarantee the existence of the political parties. And that is a responsibility shared by all Afghans and supporters of the country’s good governance, economic, and political progress.