Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Individuals and Institutions

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Individuals and Institutions

With the evolution of state and politics, there has been a movement from personality-centered structures and setups to the institutional-led structures. A thorough study of the journey from monarchy to today’s democratic era will substantially prove the mentioned argument. The monarchies were the setups dominated by the personalities of the kings that ruled them. They largely depended on the kings who used to be all in all and were not answerable to anyone and enjoyed extreme authority. Though institutions existed in their primary forms they were not able to function on their own and they all waited for the orders of the kings. As the kings had to order for all the matters in the country, the systems did not use to be very much efficient and effective and largely depended on the use of power and authority and even violence to get the works done.

As the English historian, politician & writer John Emerich has said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," therefore, the extreme authority, with which the monarchs were gifted, had corrupted them to a large extent. And on most of the occasions they were very much likely to use their authority in a wrong manner because many of them would not consult others and would even take decision on the basis of past experiences and whims. They even did not have much time to ponder upon the issues as they had to deal with so many issues at a time. There was no distribution of responsibility and there were no marked boundaries among government institution like executive, judiciary and legislature and the king was all of them at a time. Even there was no distinction between the state and the government as is in the modern concept of state and government.

However, the development of institutions continued even within monarchies and most of them in the certain parts of their histories had strong institutions that stood in support and on certain occasions in conflict with the king. One such institution was the religious institution. Kings largely depended on them while taking decisions and they used to have a great say in the affairs of the government. For example, during the Dark Age in Europe, the church used to have a strong position within the monarchies. On certain occasions even the kings used to be dominated by them. As the people including kings were highly influenced by religion and religious believes, the church used to be their favorite and it was able to exert its authority within the system. However, during the Enlightenment or Renaissance, the authority of church was challenged and efforts were made to keep the church away from the affairs of the state. It was the time when the concept of Secularism was introduced within the European society.

The later period of Renaissance was also the time when efforts were made to move from monarchy to a democratic state and it was also the time when the institutions that are very much necessary for the better performance of the government and democratic setup were formed in the modern sense. The famous concept of “Separation of Power” was revitalized during the same era, which proved to be the foundation of the modern political institutions.

In the concept of separation of power, the state is divided into branches or estates, each with separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility. The normal division of estates is into an executive, a legislature and a judiciary. The opposite of separation of powers is the fusion of powers, often a feature of parliamentary democracies. In this form, the executive, which often consists of a prime minister and cabinet, is drawn from the legislature. This is the principle of responsible government. Although the legislature and executive branches are connected, in parliamentary systems there is usually an independent judiciary and the government’s role in the parliament does not give them unlimited legislative influence.

The term, “Separation of Powers” is ascribed to French Enlightenment political philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu. Montesquieu described division of political power among an executive, a legislature and a judiciary. He based this model on the British constitutional system, in which he perceived a separation of powers among the monarch, parliament and the courts of law, but such separation, in reality was difficult to be marked. Among the abovementioned organs of the state, Montesquieu insisted greatly on the judiciary; he specified that the independence of the judiciary has to be real and not apparent merely. The judiciary was generally considered by him as the most important and the least dangerous of powers, and he suggested that it must be independent and unchecked.

There is no doubt that today the most of the democracies of the world have the concept of division of power in their systems in one way or the other. According to the modern concept of state and government, the nature, form and characteristics of institutions of executive, legislature and judiciary decide the form and quality of the system. However, the most successful (in terms of promoting democracy) among the systems of the world are the ones that have the independence of the institutions mentioned above and their transparency and accountability.

The political system in Afghanistan has been facing certain problems regarding the separation of power and the nourishment and dominancy of the political institutions. The system is, to a certain extent, marked with the dominancy of personalities, rather than the institutions, while the institutions are ill-managed and ignored and they are not even given their due authority. The executive is not, in true sense, answerable to the legislature and even, in a sense, to judiciary, which has generated concerns regarding the transparency and the accountability of the executive. Even the members of the executive are chosen on the basis of personality traits, rather than their experience in the political institutions like political parties. Therefore, it is really important for the political system in Afghanistan to respect the institutions and try to create circumstances that can play a dominant role in the development and nourishment of the political institutions. True political institutions will guarantee a long-lasting and durable democracy as they die hard and have larger scope of influence.        

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at email.urya@gmail.com

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