Incremental Peace in Afghanistan
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What sort of political system can enhance inclusion in Afghanistan – to convince the Taliban to participate and compete for power peacefully, and current power- holders to let them in?
The insurgency is fuelled by persistent political disputes over how power is distributed and the pace of modernisation. Achieving peace will need to tackle both of these challenges.
But options for institutional reform present dilemmas, between: 1) a presidential or parliamentary system – which alternately risk being resolute but dictatorial, or more pluralist but indecisive; and 2) how to promote a more party-oriented electoral system that can encourage greater accountability but discourage further ethnic mobilisation and division.
Supporting more democratic local governance may be one way to enhance representation, and presidential elections in 2019 are an opportunity for the international community to mediate electoral reform. Some forms of indirect voting, tapping into traditional Afghan governance systems, may offer possibilities to enhance regional balance and moderate extreme influences in the electorate.
Peace talks with the Taliban present another opening to broker change. While there is resistance to negotiating with the insurgency, a political settlement remains the only viable way to end the conflict. A core grievance for the Taliban has been their exclusion from the post-Bonn transition. A peace process would necessitate re-examining the fundamental structures of government and creating space for bargaining over how to administer authority.