Afghan 2010 Basics: Political Parties

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There were 80 political parties registered for Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections five years ago.

This time, there are only five and one of those failed to get any candidates on the ballot papers.

The sharp drop in the number of parties on the Afghan political landscape has been due to an ever sharper change in the laws surrounding their formation.

The Political Parties Law passed the country’s lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, in September 2009 and was signed into legislation by President Hamid Karzai.

The new law dramatically increases the requirements for new parties or those seeking to re-register.

Parties are now required to have at least 10,000 members and have signed letters of commitment from at least 35 individuals in at least 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Previously, they required a total of 700 supporters.

The new membership requirements, combined with the tardy publishing of the law (December 2009), made it difficult for parties to comply with the regulations in time for the September 18 ballot.

Critics have argued the new law, and its accompanying onerous regulations, was a cynical attempt to prevent the formation and growth of political parties, which could erode the power of the presidency.

Yet, those against the formation of parties, argue they are nothing more than aliases for ethnically or geographically-based tribes and their chiefs, warlords and their private armies and as proxies for foreign interests and forces.

At the start of the official 2010 election campaign, 36 parties had been registered but only five made it for the deadline to be included in the September 18 ballot. One of those, however, is not standing any candidates.

The five parties that are registered for the parliamentary elections are: Hizb-e-Wahdate Islmi Afghanistan (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan), Hizb-e-Musharikat Melli Afghanistan (National Communion Party of Afghanistan), Hizb-e Paiwand-e Melli-ye Afghanistan (National Solidarity Party of Afghanistan), Hizb -e- Mutahid Melli Afghanistan (United National Party of Afghanistan) and Hizb Jamori Khahan.