Afghanistan: Elections are not enough

Once the warm feeling of a successful election fades, the hard work for democracy really begins. Afghanistan is at that stage now and the lessons have much wider relevance for Iraq and beyond.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 April 2005 4 minute READ

William Maley

Associate Professor of Politics, University of New South Wales, Australia

As a device for legitimising new political arrangements, elections are very much at the top of the global political agenda. After the voting for Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly at the end of January, United States President, George Bush labeled it the ‘world’s newest democracy’.

Similar assertions have been made about Afghanistan where they have better claim to substance, since the threats to security come from Pakistan-based militants rather than well-armed local spoilers. Nonetheless, the transition to stable politics in Afghanistan has some way to go, and an awareness of what remains to be accomplished serves as a warning against premature celebration in Iraq. Elections are only one part of much more complex processes of political change.

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