They may have looked like a farce, but at the local level the Afghan elections actually did change the balance of power, and in a relatively peaceful manner, Noah Coburn and Anna Larson write in an excellent new AREU briefing paper. Their conclusions:
- Local elections matter and need to be prioritised by both national and international actors.
- Elections in 2009 were not a complete failure: people did vote and power balances did change at the local level; but
- There is an urgent need to reassess (especially international) expectations of what an ‘electoral success’ might look like. In a context in which an ongoing insurgency meant that much of the country was not represented at the polls, and with a flawed voter registration process that has been a poor substitute for a valid census, it was misguided to expect elections this year to be a test of ‘democracy’ in Afghanistan
- Preparations for 2010 parliamentary elections must begin now if the polls are to be seen by the voting public—and the international community—as worthwhile and credible.