Post-2001 Afghanistan holds regular national elections for voting in the President, the Parliament and the Provincial Councils. This is lauded as a great achievement in Afghan history where power transfer has happened using force not vote. The democratic voting right theorizes that an individual Afghan’s vote can make a difference; the 50% + 1 elects a President, majority votes elect members of the Parliament and the Provincial Councils. Ideally, this system sounds good and the voting process should result in a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. It should also enable those with the highest popularity and perhaps qualifications to govern the country. However, in reality, this is a wishful objective. The election process becomes a business making deal in which the voter wants more money, and the vote receiver wants to pay less.
Majority of the Afghans living a least developed country with soaring poverty rates give or see little real influential value in casting their votes. Their prevailing thought is that their votes do not count; their leadership is already chosen by external powers or they will remain in power regardless of their votes. As a result, the only value an Afghan may see in his or her vote is the amount of money they can make from the vote; they do not see what the vote does.
Afghan wanna-be leaders see and understand this value. Their campaigns trails across Afghanistan, therefore, are only formalities; money makes the real deals. As in other countries, ordinary Afghans watch or listen campaign slogans with ridicule and are convinced they are meant to deceive them to vote for free! But they are not going to let this happen. Instead, they prefer making deals with the representatives or their local middle-men to make bigger money on their votes, the votes of their family, their group, their tribe or ethnic group. If not money, the voters at least expect a good free lunch. Without the lunch, the representatives or the middlemen will find it hard to gather more than a few old men in a single room. In essence, the money or the free lunch can allure people to vote to somebody they may hate otherwise.
If money is not an option, people are swayed to vote their family, tribe or ethnicity, not the right person! This happens because Afghan society is a post conflict, diverse society where effective and unbiased national political parties or figures are absent to bring them together or represent their interest. Politics therefore become a divisive struggle among the diverse groups to vote their kin into the job. And the right person is the one familiar to them, not the one from the other kin or group.
Another reason to vote one’s own kin to the job is future expectations. Personal relations to the governing elites including family, linguistic, tribal or ethnic ties are seen important and a social security. With the right connections and ties, accessing public privileges including jobs, services and even contracts is hassle free. If not, it is a nightmare or a miracle to access them without having to pay, accept harassment or waste time and resources. And so, the voting rationale makes perfect sense.
The end result is that in the post-2001 era, Afghanistan continues to be governed by those with the right assets i.e. money or personal connections. Voting resembles business deals than a democracy. Unless and until this course is reversed, business will decide fate of the Afghan people, not democracy.