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The myth of Afghan democracy

Analysis: Afghanistan's emerging governmental system is looking as corrupt as ever.

But so far Karzai has eviscerated anyone who might stand against him. The Parliament has been rendered toothless by the Special Court, whose power it has been unsuccessful in opposing.

The judiciary is independent in name only; reform of the judicial branch has been so slow and problematic that the international community has all but given up. Emphasis now is on “traditional justice” or tribal courts, in which largely untrained but supposedly highly respected members of the community help to settle local disputes.

If Karzai makes a move to amend the Constitution during the Loya Jirga, who will stop him?

The international community, with one foot out the door, may very well look the other way, as it did during the 2009 elections that reinstated Karzai, in spite of his never having won the 50-percent-plus-one majority necessary for the presidency.

Good reasons will doubtless be found: with the security handover due to be completed in 2014, this is not the time to be changing horses; there is no viable alternative; Afghanistan needs stability above all else. These, among others, were the justifications advanced in 2009 for not pushing more aggressively for a valid election.

The loser, in this case, will be Afghanistan’s “fledgling democracy.” But by then there may be very little trace of it left.