Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan: Elections in an Unstable Political Landscape
By: Anna Larson (author), Noah Coburn (author)Hardback
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Since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, researchers, policymakers, and the media have failed to consider the long-term implications of the country's post-conflict elections. Based on fieldwork in provinces across the country and interviews with more than seven hundred candidates, officials, community leaders, and voters, this book builds an in-depth portrait of Afghanistan's recent elections as experienced by individuals and communities, while revealing how the elections have in fact actively contributed to instability, undermining the prospects of democracy in Afghanistan. Merging political science with anthropology, Noah Coburn and Anna Larson document how political leaders, commanders, and the new ruling elite have used elections to further their own interests and deprive local communities of access to political opportunities. They retrace presidential, parliamentary, and provincial council elections over the past decade and expose the role of international actors in promoting the polls as one-off events, detached from the broader political landscape.
This approach to elections has allowed existing local powerholders to solidify their grip on resources and opportunities, derailing democratization processes and entrenching a deeper disengagement from central government. Western powers, Coburn and Larson argue, need to reevaluate their most basic assumptions about elections, democracy, and international intervention if they hope to prevent similar outcomes in the future.
Noah Coburn is a political anthropologist at Bennington College in Vermont. He has conducted fieldwork in Afghanistan since 2005, focusing on political and economic life in Afghanistan, particularly on issues of violence, conflict, and local governance. His book, Bazaar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town, was the first full-length ethnography of a Tajik community in Afghanistan. He received his doctorate from the Anthropology Department at Boston University. Anna Larson is an academic researcher focusing on democratization, governance, and gender in fragile states. She worked in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2010, leading research programs in governance for the Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU). She has published widely on issues of democratization, political party development, elections, gender, and parliamentary dynamics. She completed her doctoral studies in postwar recovery at the University of York, UK.
List of IllustrationsList of AbbreviationsChronology: Timeline of Elections and Other Major Historical Events in AfghanistanDemocracy Derailed?Map of Afghanistan1. Understanding Elections in Afghanistan2. Of Ballots and Boundaries: A Brief History of Political Participation in Afghanistan3. Electing the Peace? Afghanistan's Fast-Track Democracy4. A House of Sand: The Fallout of the 2005 Parliamentary Election5. Engineering Elections Locally6. The Unintended Consequences of International Support7. Violence and Voting8. "They Make Their Ablutions with Bottled Water": Elites and the Decline of Accountability9. International Intervention and Aspirations of Representative GovernanceNotesReferencesIndex
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- ID: 9780231166201
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