Survey on Political Institutions, Elections, and Democracy in Afghanistan
October 31, 2012
Democracy International’s (DI) nationwide survey in Afghanistan constitutes some of the most comprehensive public-opinion research to date on democracy, elections, and governance in the country. This research includes a nationally representative public opinion survey as well as extensive in-depth interviews and focus groups. To better understand how Afghans’ perceptions affect their participation, the survey focused in particular on the processes and institutions involved in the consolidation of democracy in Afghanistan.
The survey reveals that while Afghans are civic-minded and participate in a range of political activities, especially within their communities, they are broadly dissatisfied with the way formal democracy works at the national and local levels. They express a lack of confidence in elected institutions, including the national assembly and the presidency. Only 40% of respondents say they will vote in the next presidential elections, and only 42% say they will participate in the national assembly elections. Afghans have more faith that informal or local institutions are representing their interests, as large percentages of citizens find religious leaders (96%), jirgas and shuras (69%), and community development councils (66%) accessible while only small numbers say the same about the national assembly (4%) and provincial councils (7%). In short, Afghans are supportive of representative institutions but skeptical of those associated with the formal state.
As preparations continue for elections and the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014, there is increasing uncertainty among Afghans as to whether the recently established democratic political institutions will endure. The survey shows that Afghans are relatively pessimistic about the future of their country: 52% expect that serious fighting will continue, and 55% believe that there is little likelihood of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban in the next few years.