Afghanistan’s newest Wolesi Jirga—the lower house of the National Assembly—boasts a younger and more educated membership than those elected in either 2005 or 2010. Its representativeness, however, is uneven and problematic. This report offers a comparative profile of the Wolesi Jirgas elected in 2005, 2010, and 2018, highlighting issues salient to the reforms Afghanistan needs to undertake if it is to hold credible national elections that yield truly representative elected institutions.

An Afghan woman shows her inked finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Kabul on October 20, 2018. (Rahmat Gul/AP)
An Afghan woman shows her inked finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary elections in Kabul on October 20, 2018. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

Summary

  • Afghan legislative elections in 2005, 2010, and 2018 have each fallen short of producing a legislature that adequately represents the country’s population.
  • Electoral fraud, low voter participation, elected candidates’ tiny vote shares, and imbalance in representation between major urban centers and rural areas raise serious questions about the representativeness of the Wolesi Jirga.
  • A significant factor in the lack of representativeness of the Wolesi Jirga is the country’s use of the single nontransferable vote (SNTV) system to conduct its elections.
  • The SNTV system, quota provisions for female candidates, and the large number of contesting candidates all contribute to a dynamic in which winning candidates collectively received less than 50 percent of the vote in most provinces in the 2018 elections.
  • At the individual candidate level, winning candidates rarely received more than 10 percent of the total vote in 2018, and won their races by razor-thin margins.
  • In addition to creating a secure environment in which to conduct elections, Afghanistan needs to adopt an electoral system that converts votes into seats more efficiently and encourages the meaningful participation of political parties in national elections.

About the Report

Based on a quantitative analysis of voting data from Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in 2005, 2010, and 2018, this report offers a comparative profile of who has won parliamentary seats in the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly and highlights questions regarding the fairness of representation in that body. The research was supported by the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace.

About the Author

A. Farid Tookhy is a senior consultant on elections, government, and politics. He has served as an adviser on electoral and political affairs with the United Nations in Afghanistan, Sudan, and South Sudan. He holds an M.A. in international affairs from Tuft University’s Fletcher School and a PhD in political science and government from Georgetown University.

Related Publications

11 Things to Know: Afghanistan on the Eve of Withdrawal

11 Things to Know: Afghanistan on the Eve of Withdrawal

Thursday, June 17, 2021

By: Andrew Wilder; Scott Worden

U.S. and NATO troops are rapidly executing President Biden’s policy of a complete withdrawal of American troops and contactors supporting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) by a deadline of September 11. Based on the rate of progress, the last American soldier could depart before the end of July. The decision to withdraw without a cease-fire or a framework for a political agreement between the Taliban and the government caught Afghans and regional countries by surprise. The Taliban have capitalized on the moment to seize dozens of districts and project an air of confidence and victory.  

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes; Fragility & Resilience

Kabul School Bombing Reinforces Fears Over Post-Withdrawal Security

Kabul School Bombing Reinforces Fears Over Post-Withdrawal Security

Thursday, May 20, 2021

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Fatema Ahmadi

For the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of Kabul, home to the Hazara minority group, the devastating May 8 bombing outside a school is part of a disturbing trend of attacks in the area. The bombing killed at least 85 and injured around 150 — mostly young girls — and coincided with concerns of escalating violence as the United States withdraws combat troops from Afghanistan. Although no group has claimed responsibility, the Islamic State group (ISIS) has perpetrated similar attacks in the past and many suspect it was again responsible. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Peace Processes

Even After Withdrawal, U.S. Retains Leverage Over Taliban

Even After Withdrawal, U.S. Retains Leverage Over Taliban

Thursday, April 29, 2021

By: Karen Decker

President Biden’s announcement that U.S. troops would withdraw by September 11 has many Afghans and observers warning of a quick collapse of the Afghan state and a new phase in the country’s civil war. Without minimizing the challenges ahead, the United States should avoid any self-fulfilling prophecy of imminent collapse by insisting that the only future for Afghanistan is one that advances the gains of the past 20 years. As troops begin to depart, it is an opportune time to examine three forms of leverage the United States has to promote a political settlement.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

View All Publications