Freedom in the World
Afghanistan’s political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 due to a deeply flawed presidential election that included massive fraud, a compromised electoral management body, and low voter turnout due to intimidation.
President Hamid Karzai secured a new term in 2009 after his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew in protest from a runoff election scheduled for November. The runoff had been called after the discovery of massive fraud reduced Karzai’s lead in the first round, which was held in August following a controversial four-month delay. The deeply flawed voting took place as insurgent and other violence continued to mount, spreading to the capital and previously calmer areas in the north, and further hampering local and international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s shattered infrastructure and institutions.
Lingering doubts about the Karzai administration’s legitimacy and integrity, combined with the continued deterioration in security, posed a major challenge to the central and provincial governments as they struggled to control areas under their jurisdiction, deliver basic services, and engage in vital reconstruction efforts. These problems also had a negative effect on the ability of civil society and humanitarian organizations to operate freely.
Afghanistan is not an electoral democracy. While elections have been held, significant problems remain with regard to the political framework, effective governance, and transparency. The directly elected president serves five-year terms and has the power to appoint ministers, subject to parliamentary approval. In the directly elected lower house of the National Assembly, the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), members stand for five-year terms. In the 102-seat Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), the upper house, two-thirds of members are indirectly elected by the provinces while one-third are appointed by the president. At least 68 of the Wolesi Jirga seats are reserved for women, while 10 are reserved for the nomadic Kuchi community. Provisions for women’s representation have also been made for the Meshrano Jirga and provincial councils.