Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

AAN in the Media

In Afghan vote, an optimistic, energetic young guard targeted the old

2 min

Christian Science Monitor, 14 November 2018

Against the overly optimistic headline, some quotes by AAN’s Thomas Ruttig trying to put a more realistic touch upon this part of the Afghan election-related media hype about the ‘youth wave’:

Yet even with the emergence of a new generation committed to more democratic norms, change won’t be easy, say Afghanistan experts.

“There is something I call ‘defiant patriotism,’ which says: ‘We are staying here.’ But of course a lot of them belong to the elites, or this new-but-still-precarious middle class,” says Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network think tank in Kabul.

“I thought this youth wave was a bit talked up,” says Mr. Ruttig. “The system has been so corrupted and dollarized, because you need a lot of money to get into parliament. So can an idealistic, not rich, NGO-type win an election in Afghanistan? They can only do that when they link up with someone who finances them. And I think the people who are really philanthropists, who want a democratic parliament and a democratic Afghanistan, are in the minority.”

Not every son or daughter of a warlord who is running shares the psychology of their father, says Ruttig. “But family ties are very strong here, and from them it’s expected that they look after the interests of their families. It’s very difficult to say: ‘No, I’m not interested. I want democratic politics,’ ” he says.

Despite years of preparation, the vote itself was marred by organizational failures, from lack of a reliable voter registry, to just more than 5,000 out of 7,000 polling stations being opened, to last-minute implementation of a confusing biometric voter verification system.

The result is “unprecedented disenfranchisement” of Afghans, says Ruttig, with at most 4 million ballots cast despite the existence of some 8.9 million registered voters and an estimated 12 million potential voters.