The American media started calling today's election Afghanistan's first presidential election, but many have shortened this to "first election."
In case anyone cares, it's more like the fifth.
In 1949 Shah Mahmud allowed National Assembly elections; the result was the "liberal parliament" of 1949. He tolerated the activity of opposition political groups. The most vocal of these groups was the Wikh-i-Zalmayan (Awakened Youth), a movement comprised of diverse dissident groups founded in Qandahar in 1947.
The parliament that was elected in 1952 was a significant step backward from the one that had been elected in 1949.
Most observers described the 1965 elections as remarkably fair. Several unofficial parties ran candidates with beliefs ranging from fundamentalist Islam to the extreme left. The 216-member Wolesi Jirgah, or the lower house of parliament, included representation not only by antiroyalists but also by the left and right of the political spectrum. Included were supporters of the king, Pashtun nationalists, entrepreneurs and industrialists, political liberals, a small group of leftists, and conservative Muslim leaders still opposed to secularization. The king nominated a new prime minister, Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal, a democratic socialist who quickly established friendly relations with the students.
Political parties continued to be prohibited because the king refused to sign legislation allowing them. Democracy nevertheless maintained a toehold in the lower house of parliament where free criticism of government policies and personnel was aired.
On January 1, 1965, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had been founded. The PDPA, a communist party in fact if not in name, was established for the primary purpose of gaining parliamentary seats. The PDPA was comprised of a small group of men, followers of Nur Mohammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal, both avowed Marxist-Leninists with a pro-Moscow orientation. The fact that four PDPA members won parliamentary seats suggests that government efforts to prevent the success of its leftist opponents by intervening in the balloting were halfhearted. Taraki, one of the four PDPA members elected to parliament in 1965, started the first major leftist newspaper, Khalq (Masses).
Another party was a conservative religious organization known as the Islamic Society (Jam'iyyat-e Eslami), which was founded by a number of religiously minded individuals, including members of the University of Kabul faculty of religion. The Islamists were highly influenced by the militant ideology of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and were ardently opposed to the power of leftist and secular elements in Afghanistan.
National politics became increasingly polarized, a situation reflected in the appointment by the King of five successive prime ministers between September 1965 and December 1972.
In 1969's nationwide elections, the turnout was low: about 1,500,000 votes out of a population of 16,520,000. But 1965's turnout had been even lower. The 1969 parliamentary elections produced a legislative assembly essentially consistent with the real population and distribution of power in the hinterland, in that conservative landowners and businessmen predominated and many more non-Pashtuns were elected than in the previous legislature. Most of the urban liberals and all of the female delegates lost their seats. Few leftists remained in the new parliament, although Karmal and Hafizullah Amin had been elected from districts in and near Kabul. Former prime minister Maiwandwal lost his seat when the government selectively influenced the elections.
Between 1969 and 1973, instability ruled Afghan politics. The parliament was lethargic and deadlocked. Public dissatisfaction over the unstable government prompted growing political polarization as both the left and the right began to attract more members. Still personally popular, the king nevertheless came under increasing criticism for not supporting his own prime ministers.
In 1973 Mohammed Daud seized power in a coup.
My source is several good articles on the net including this one.
[ 10 October 2004: Message edited by: Wilfred Day ]