1st Edition

Constitutional Law and the Politics of Ethnic Accommodation Institutional Design in Afghanistan

By Bashir Mobasher Copyright 2024
    176 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores whether the legal and political institutions of Afghanistan were able to incorporate diverse ethnic groups into the political process. Ethnic accommodation has gained central stage in the literature on institutional design and democratic consolidation.

    However, some divided societies are more explored than others, and Afghanistan is one understudied country that is critically important for testing and improving our theories of institutional design in a democratizing, plural society. This work examines the Constitution of 2004 and those provisions of electoral laws and political party laws that together devised Afghan political institutions including those of the presidential system, unitary government, electoral systems as well as the party system.

    It argues that due to their incongruence in design and effects, the Afghan political institutions failed to fully accommodate ethnic groups in the political process. This book adopts a holistic approach, while also paying careful attention to the details of each of the individual pieces of political institutions designed by the Constitution of 2004. Taken together, this approach yields insights into the boundaries and interactions of institutional design and how their interactions hinder or advance ethnic accommodation in varying contexts.

    The book will be essential reading for academics, researchers and policy makers interested in constitutional law and politics.

    Introduction: Ethnicity, Constitution, and Accommodation in Afghanistan

    Identifying the Problem

    The Search for an Explanation

    A Way to Explore

    Establishing the Parameters: Ethnic Accommodation

    Organization of This Book

    1 A Failed Nation or a Failed Constitution?: An Insight from the Inside of Afghanistan


    I. What Afghanistanologists Had to Say About Afghanistan

    II. Were Afghans Anti- Democratic?

    III. How Divided was Afghanistan as a Country and a Nation?

    What did the Elites Say?

    IV. A Socially Divorced Constitution


    2 The Politics of Ethnic Accommodation under the Runoff System: A System of Coalition Making and Breaking


    I. Feature One: The 50 Percent Threshold

    II. Feature Two: The Disastrous Second Rounds

    III. Nonconcurrent Electoral Cycles


    3 A Dysfunctional Parliament under the Yoke of the SNTV System: A System of Unrepresentative Representatives


    I. The Nuts and Bolts of the SNTV System

    A. Feature One: Proportional Representation

    B. Feature Two: Encouraging Personalistic Politics

    C. Feature Three: Threshold- Free Elections

    D. Feature Four: Encouraging the Fragmentation of Parties and Coalition


    4 Constitutional Unchecks and Imbalances: Examining Ethnic Accommodation under a Strong Presidential System


    I. A Look at the Balance of Powers from Above

    II. Legislative Powers of the President

    1. Legislative Initiations

    2. Veto Authority of the President

    3. Soliciting Constitutional Review

    4. Decree Authority of the President

    5. Budget Planning

    III. Executive Powers of the President vis-a-vis the House

    1. Cabinet Formation

    2. Endurance of Cabinet Members in Afghanistan

    3. Changes in Administrative Units

    IV. Senate: The Backyard of the President


    5 A System of Dual Vice- Presidency: The Problematique of Unauthorized and Unaccountable Vice-Presidents


    I. Dual Vice-Presidency and its Representational Attributes

    II. Policy- Free Presidential Teams

    III. The Irrelevant Vice- Presidents


    6 A Centralized State in a Decentralized Society: Identity Politics in a Strongly Centralized System


    I. The Problem of Outsider Governors

    II. Local Councils (Provincial, District, and Village)


    7 A Failed Project of Party Nationalization: The Problem with the Party Laws of Afghanistan


    I. Lack of Interest in Party Development

    II. Command and Control Rules

    III. Laws of Not the Emerging Coalitions





    Dr. Bashir Mobasher is a postdoctoral fellow at the American University’s Department of Sociology and a lecturer of political science at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).

    “This is a first-rate application of political science and institutional theory to a very important—but curiously under-studied—case, which helps to clarify much about why Afghanistan’s democratic experiment ended as it did.”

    Benjamin Reilly, East-West Center

    “Bashir Mobasher provides a definitive account of how the design of the constitution in Afghanistan not only failed to build a durable state, but also failed the people of the country. Despite so much international attention on the drafting process, this book tackles how experts got so much wrong. This book provides important lessons and is a must-read for scholars and practitioners alike who are engaged in institutional design and constitution building around the world. Mobasher demonstrates the many ways in which context matters for crafting successful and legitimate institutions.”

    Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, University of Pittsburgh

    “In his fresh and astute study, Bashir Mobasher combines a deep understanding of his homeland and political institutions to explain why democracy didn’t blossom in Afghanistan. His analysis uncovers how poor institutional design set up Afghanistan for failure despite its people’s longing for stability and cross-ethnic politics. Vital reading for those who want to get beyond hoary cliches about Afghanistan to unpack what happened along with what to avoid in future efforts to reconstruct fractured polities.”

    David Lublin, American University

    “This book offers an unbiased and honest detailing of Afghan governance. If you want to think through what the future of government in Afghanistan might look like, start here.”

    Jason Criss Howk, Director of Global Friends of Afghanistan