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By Zia Ur Rehman
KABUL – A recent rise in registration of new political parties and increased political activities in Afghanistan indicate that defeat of the Taliban militancy could be at hand, politicians and security analysts said.
The Afghan Ministry of Justice has registered 84 political parties since a new law took effect in September 2009, according to ministry official Hakim Wardak. Another 12 are in the process of registering, he added.
“In the beginning, political circles were reluctant to form or register a political party, but now the trend has changed significantly,” Wardak told Central Asia Online.
Only four of 18 candidates in the 2004 presidential elections had backing from political parties, while in the 2005 parliamentary polls only 14% of 2,835 candidates declared a party affiliation, he said.
However, he and others report a greater participation of parties in 2009 and 2010 elections.
A multi-party system began emerging in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s fall in 2001.
“Political parties play a vital role in any democracy in encouraging political co-ordination and strengthening the accountability of government through organised and constructive opposition,” said Samia Azizi Saadat, a woman parliamentarian elected from Parwan Province.
Development of the country cannot be ensured without democratic and political development, Saadat told Central Asia Online.
After the fall of the Taliban, a technical and political process of democratisation commenced with formation of a mixed presidential and parliamentary system, a bi-cameral parliament and an electoral cycle, said Zahid Amiri, a political analyst at Kabul University. As a result, participation of political parties in Afghan national politics increased during the 2009 and 2010 elections, he said.
Afghanistan’s electoral system
In 2003, President Hamid Karzai signed a law allowing political parties to form and register, said Wardak.
The law stipulated several conditions, including that parties ensure their activities comply with the principles of Islam and not provoke violence between different social groups, he said. The 2004 Constitution specified further that parties could not be formed on the basis of ethnicity, region, language or religious sect.
As Afghanistan prepares for parliamentary elections in 2015, the Ministry of Justice, based on suggestions from the Independent Electoral Commission, has issued new regulations to strengthen and simplify the electoral landscape, Afghanistan Today reported August 1.
“Under the new regulations, the founders of a political party which is to be registered has to have 34 individuals from 34 provinces,” Muhammad Naser Hafezy, the director of the Department of Registration of Political Parties and Social Organisations at the Ministry of Justice, told Afghanistan Today.
Analysts and politicians welcome the new regulations and hope they will filter out ethnically oriented parties and strengthen those with communal, national interests.
Mujahedeen groups transform into political parties
Since the start of the process of democratisation in 2001, a number of former mujahedeen groups have reformed and developed into political parties.
“The 1960s saw the growth of communist parties, but after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973 and the subsequent Soviet occupation, seven mujahedeen groups formed with the shared goal of resisting Soviet rule,” said Ali Akbar Watanyar, a Kabul-based senior journalist.
“After the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989, many of these mujahedeen factions fought against one another in the resulting civil war,” Watanyar told Central Asia Online. “During the violent conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s, alliances between these groups changed rapidly as various factions formed coalitions in search of a military advantage.”
However, he termed this transformation a great success of the current government.
“The broader political landscape has changed significantly in the post-2001 era because of the launch of a new democratic process in the country,” he said.
Women in Afghan mainstream politics
Afghan women also entered the political arena after 2001, political analysts said.
Now, female representation in parliament is constitutionally secured at 27.3%, said Shukrai Barakzai, a prominent female politician and a member of parliament. In the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, for example, at least 64 of the 249 delegates must be female.
And political parties are including women in their decision-making bodies, like central executive committees, according to Amiri.
Woman parliamentarians have voiced concern about violence against women, child marriages, women’s health and education and other social issues, Barakzai told Central Asia Online.
While the formation of political entities and broader democratic participation generally are popular, the number and nature of the political affiliations are seen as having spiralled out of control, analysts said, and political parties still face challenges, especially in terms of public confidence, they add.
“It is just because of misuse of the word ‘party’ or ‘tanzim’ by the violent mujahedeen groups in the past who were responsible for killing thousands of people during the civil war,” said Hafiz Rasikh, a central leader of the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan.
“(The mujahedeen groups fought among each other between the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the Taliban victory in 1996), and in Kabul alone they had killed more than 65,000 innocent people (before the Taliban took Kabul in 1996),” Rasikh told Central Asia Online.