Democracy and the Rule of Law in Afghanistan: A Cautionary Tale

The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 46, No. 1 (2022)

14 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2022

See all articles by Mehdi J. Hakimi

Mehdi J. Hakimi

Harvard University - Harvard Law School; Stanford Law School

Date Written: February 18, 2022

Abstract

The Taliban’s ouster in 2001 presented a historic opportunity to break away from Afghanistan’s despotic past and transition toward democratic governance. This article argues that the viability of Afghanistan’s democratization hinged, in key part, on institutional compliance with the rule of law. Put differently, Afghanistan’s recent authoritarian reversion was preceded by “constitutional retrogression,” particularly via systematic assault on the rule of law. By examining the roles of the legislature and presidency, the article contends that the 2004 constitution’s flawed separation of powers—in tandem with rampant executive overreach and a deficient electoral system—eroded key democratic norms and, thereby, diminished the legitimacy of the underlying regime. This mounting legitimacy deficit, paired with associated governance woes, emboldened and empowered opposition groups. With the Taliban back in power, Afghanistan’s autocratic reversion serves as a cautionary tale on the perils of rule of law decay.

Keywords: Afghanistan, Afghan Law, Rule of Law, Democracy, Democratization, Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, Executive Overreach, Legislature, Legislative Oversight, Elections, Electoral System, Comparative Law, Legal Reform, Law and Development, Law and Society

Suggested Citation

Hakimi, Mehdi J., Democracy and the Rule of Law in Afghanistan: A Cautionary Tale (February 18, 2022). The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 46, No. 1 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4040389

Mehdi J. Hakimi (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Law School

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stanford Law School

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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