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Special Report
Last Updated: 04/19/2004
Democracy and Governance in Afghanistan
International Crisis Group

Lack of security, slow progress in the disarmament of militias, and a weakly developed legal and institutional framework for democratic politics are endangering the success of Afghanistan's presidential and parliamentary elections due to be held in September.


Elections and Security in Afghanistan

afganistan

Kabul/Brussels, 30 March 2004: Lack of security, slow progress in the disarmament of militias, and a weakly developed legal and institutional framework for democratic politics are endangering the success of Afghanistan's presidential and parliamentary elections due to be held in September.

Elections and Security in Afghanistan,* the latest briefing paper from the International Crisis Group, warns of the real risk that elections under present conditions will merely confirm an undemocratic and unstable status quo.  As representatives of the Afghan government, the UN and the major donor countries assemble in Berlin 31 March-1 April for the first high-level diplomatic meeting on Afghanistan in more than two years, it is essential that they do more than pledge the $27.6 billion in aid over seven years that President Karzai's administration seeks.

The Berlin conference must also discuss candidly the security failings and other internal obstacles that are seriously hindering the implementation of the 2001 Bonn Agreement and the future of democratic government in Afghanistan. It needs to call on NATO to deliver the robust international security presence outside Kabul it promised last fall but has been very slow to implement.

"The international community's failure to expand security beyond the capital is perpetuating and even deepening the political and economic power of regional commanders", says Vikram Parekh, ICG Senior Analyst on Afghanistan. "NATO's appeal to member states to contribute a modest three battalions in the north to cover the first two phases of their proposed four-phase expansion has yet to result in a single firm commitment".

Much remains to be done to convince the Afghan public that the election process will be not only reasonably free and fair, but also meaningful. The legal framework for the elections remains unclear. President Karzai has yet to issue either a draft electoral law or a presidential decree on the controversial issue of provincial and district boundaries that would form electoral constituencies.

The registration of political parties has proceeded very slowly. Only about 1.5 million voters out of an estimated potential electorate of 10 million have been registered, and registration is markedly lower in the south and southeast in both absolute numbers and the proportion of women.

The new Afghan National Army (ANA) has suffered setbacks that limit its ability to extend the authority of the central government, facilitate the disarmament and reintegration (DR) process, and provide security during the elections. Its present strength of approximately 7,500 is still far short of the 40,000 projected by Coalition officers.

Poor coordination of Coalition counter-terrorism strategy with the Bonn political process has further stalled the disarmament and reintegration of Afghanistan's numerous ex-combatants. The planned establishment of new Special Forces-led militia units has provided a disincentive to disarm.

"Without a reinvigorated disarmament and reintegration process, political and economic life in both the centre and the provinces will continue to be dominated by the gun or the shadow of the gun", says Robert Templer, ICG Asia Program Director. "Democratic institutions can only develop in an environment that allows open discussion about governance, something that continues to elude Afghanistan more than two years after the signing of the Bonn Agreement".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 485 555 946 Jennifer Leonard (Washington) 1-202-785 1601 To contact ICG media please click here *Read the report in full http://www.crisisweb.org/


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