Frangis Dadfar Spanta

Department of Political and Social Sciences, Otto Suhr Institute of Political Science at the Free University Berlin

Contested Governance in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: Cultural and Political Perceptions of Order by the Elite Representatives

Landlocked Afghanistan is de facto since 1979 in a state of war. Different statebuilding efforts and reconciliation processes between the different elite fractions towards a sustainable peace or negotiations for a stable status quo are based on a fragile ground. Therefore, the doctoral project aims to examine the interests, value systems, norms, and the diverse state perceptions of the different elite fractions (politicians, religious leaders, journalists, human rights activists, warlords, provincial governors, artists). More specifically the dissertation will expose the differences, conflict areas and intersections between the particular elite interests in the on-going transformation phase. Thus, determine how it influences the dynamics of the statebuilding process towards a sustainable peace. So far, the international peacebuilding efforts in war-torn Afghanistan have prioritized on establishing security, democratization and a liberal market. The dissertation will analyse along these three intertwined areas the effects of statebuilding reforms on the political and socio-economical networks of the political elite-fractions and patronage-clientele system. The collected empirical data so far allows identifying three major conflict areas: government positions, access to resources, securing the access to them and in general different value systems.

Within the elite and transformation theory the functional elites have brought stabilization and sustainable peace effects in post-conflict countries. The particular theories that describe these effects are explained and later used to categorize different types of elites in Kabul as well as in the districts of Herat in the West and Balkh/Mazar-e Sharif in the North. The hypothesis of the dissertation will be that the co-optation strategy of powerbrokers in the central government and throughout the rural country are just short-termed solutions and harmful for a sustainable peace-leading consolidation process. Up to this point of my research, the second hypothesis is that a powerful middle class together with the young generation of elites will be able to form a promising foundation for a democratic statebuilding process.

The thesis will proceed in two steps: firstly, it will develop a theory from the empirical data from the analysis of the semi-structured interviews and observations. This typology makes it possible to reflect the contrary notions of order and to generalize the most dominant notions of state, in which the socio-cultural and political realities of today’s Afghanistan are reflected. Secondly, the dissertation will elaborate possible conclusions for the state-building process. The collected data will be used accordingly to the contested governance forms in the hybrid state system to propose a reflected and adequate state-consolidating process in Afghanistan.