Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, April 19th, 2019

Challenges of Political Parties in Afghanistan

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Challenges of Political Parties in Afghanistan

Political party is defined as a group of people having similar ideas about a country’s policies and commonly seeking to gain political power. The relation between democracy and political party is likened to two wings of a bird or termed as backbone of democracy. No bird can fly without two wings and no democracy can succeed without active political parties. Its main function consist of introducing right election nominees, making general policies, criticizing the government, raising political awareness and bridging between people and government. Therefore, all pioneer democracies are based on strong and lawful political parties.   
In the other words, every citizen holds a constitutional right to organize with like-minded citizens to form a political party so as to attain some common political goals.  The right to form a political party is derived from the constitutional right of association, free speech, and equal protection. A political party is a voluntary association formed out of the free will and consent of those who created it.  A political party upholds certain principles regarding public policies of a government.  A political party seeks to attain and maintain political power within a government. So, political parties can play essential roles such as opinion-making, acting as a watchdog, introducing candidates, bridging between government and people, and proposing useful political programs.
In a democracy, all citizens should be involved in political activities. However, a direct democracy where every citizen is directly involved in all political decisions is not possible within modern mass societies. This is why a modern democracy needs institutions and organizations that represent the will and the interests of the citizens as authentically as possible. These can be associations, political parties, informal groups or non-governmental organizations. In particular, the political parties carry out such a representative function. They offer to the citizens the possibility to influence politics and political decisions. They are an important instrument and institution of politics. Hence, without political parties, a modern representative democracy is not conceivable. Only, the parties ensure that the citizens are permanently capable to act politically. They articulate and integrate different interests, visions and opinions. They are also the main source for the recruitment of political elites.
For the first time in history, the new Afghanistan’s constituttion enabled the political parties to operate openly and they are fully legal but they never have performed their role and function as it is expected. In modern political system, they should exercise an important function in a democratic system as a “watchdog” of government policy and as a political alternative in the future, and expected to express itself on all issues relevant for government. Parties are expected to propose views on domestic and foreign policies, economic and social policies, and youth and civil policies etc. In order to meet these requirements, each party should have certain platform and programs.
unfortunately the Afghan political parties could not establish a factual place in the system; This is particularly the case in the parliamentary elections, where candidates are free to identify themselves as members of a certain party (although many do not), parties as such are unable to play an official role. Most significantly, in the current electoral system, which are individual-based, parties cannot field lists of their candidates, there are no parliamentary seats reserved for political parties, as in other countries, and parties are not allowed to establish factions in parliament. The latter provisions, even more paradoxically, have never been laid down in any legislation, yet they are still adhered to.
Usually the leaders of political parties are chosen on the basis of internal election but in Afghanistan it is like a patrimonial property which is passed from one generation to other one and from father to son.  They always criticize government for being autocratic and monopolist while they have further monopolized the leadership of political parties. This shows that the political parties which are the central institutions for a modern democracy have not been lawfully formed in Afghanistan yet. Neither people trust on political parties and nor young educated generation are willing to join such parties. They are more likely to a personal business firm which is fighting for their personal interest instead of public interests.
In order to have a successful role, the political parties need to hold internal election and also establish various levels of provincial offices following the structure of the state. The local party organizations are of particular importance for a stable and active party. Here, members can directly be politically active. At this level, they have the deepest contact with their party and politics in general. Local party organizations should conduct regular membership meetings, and support, promote and integrate (new) members. These should be invited to the party and district meetings and social events, as well as to discussions on local politics issues and local initiatives, for instance, residential redevelopment, road building or schools, business settlements etc.
Lastly, without political parties, a modern representative democracy is not conceivable. Only, these parties can ensure that the citizens are permanently capable to act politically. They articulate and integrate different interests, visions and opinions. They are also the main source for the recruitment of political elites. On the other hand, political parties are not able to play a constructive role in the country unless they start the reforms from themselves. Political parties should not be formed on the basis of sectarian criteria but merely on the basis of national and meritocracy.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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