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

Afghanistan: Can Central Asia Help Spur Peace with the Taliban?

Afghanistan: Can Central Asia Help Spur Peace with the Taliban?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

By: Adam Gallagher

Afghanistan’s peace process could be taking a major step forward in August with the potential commencement of intra-Afghan talks, said the U.S. chief negotiator on Friday. “This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region—perhaps a defining moment,” said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Peace in Afghanistan would redound to the benefit of the entire region. As the peace process stumbles forward, one critical but often overlooked element is the role of Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

U.S., Russian interests overlap in Afghanistan. So, why offer bounties to the Taliban?

U.S., Russian interests overlap in Afghanistan. So, why offer bounties to the Taliban?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

By: Andrew Wilder

Recent intelligence reports indicating that Russian bounties paid to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops have bolstered American and Afghan officials long-held allegations that Moscow has been engaged in clandestine operations to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Russia’s support for the Taliban, however, has largely been tactical in nature. Both Washington and Moscow ultimately have a converging strategic interest in a relatively stable Afghanistan without a long-term U.S. presence that will not be a haven for transnational terrorists. USIP’s Andrew Wilder looks at what this means for the decades-long Afghan conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

Negotiations Are the Only Way to End Afghan Conflict, Says Abdullah

Negotiations Are the Only Way to End Afghan Conflict, Says Abdullah

Thursday, June 25, 2020

By: Adam Gallagher

The head of Afghanistan’s new peace council said yesterday that he is optimistic that intra-Afghan talks can start in the coming weeks, but increased levels of violence and details of prisoner releases may slow the start of talks. Chairman Abdullah added that the government’s negotiating team will be inclusive and represent common values in talks with the Taliban. The team “will be diverse and represent all walks of life,” Abdullah said. Afghans and analysts have expressed concern that without an inclusive negotiating team, the country’s hard-won, democratic gains could be compromised for the sake of a deal with the Taliban.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Peace Processes

View All Publications