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The Process of Power-Sharing. How Constitutions Were Established in Afghanistan and Iraq after US Intervention

By A. van den Heuvel


Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded by coalitions led by the United States (US) within a time frame of eighteen months. In the period after the invasion and the toppling of the ruling parties, new constitutions that included power-sharing arrangements were established in both countries. Power-sharing is a crucial part of peace agreements and new constitutions in many contemporary post-conflict situations. For groups to agree on sharing power can provide an alternative for the violent power struggle that took place during conflict. Power-sharing agreements have both succeeded and failed but, after researching power-sharing arrangements in 191 countries and in-depth research of ten post-conflict societies, Pippa Norris of Harvard University concludes, “power-sharing is one of the most promising avenues towards lasting peace settlements and sustainable democracy” (Norris 2008:223). \ud \ud There are different areas in which power-sharing can be applied; at the executive and government level, but also in the legislature and in judicial and economic sectors. In each case where power-sharing is applied, these areas are in- or excluded in a more- or less comprehensive way. In this thesis the focus is on political power-sharing arrangements. “Political arrangements” refers to regulations regarding the executive and government levels that include institutional and constitutional rules such as the type of electoral system, the type of executive (presidential or parliamentary) and the division of power between central government and regions (Papagianni 2007:25, Norris 2008:23). A detailed definition of power-sharing depends on the theory of power-sharing advocated. A general, broad definition is based on common elements from political power-sharing theories and is given by Pippa Norris and Timothy Sisk, an often-cited scholar on power-sharing in post-conflict societies. Sisk defines political power-sharing systems as “practices and institutions that result in broad-based governing coalitions generally inclusive of most, if not all, major groups” (Sisk 1999:vii, 4). The definition used in this thesis is put forward by Pippa Norris, who defines political power-sharing as “formal institutional rules which give multiple political elites a stake in the decision-making process” (Norris 2008:23). \ud \ud In order to institutionalize and implement political power-sharing arrangements, questions on which groups will get a stake in power, on how it will be decided how much power a group gets and on who is to answer these first two questions have to be answered (Papagianni 2008:49). Power-sharing theory deals with these puzzles. \ud \ud \ud There are two main theories in power-sharing literature, known as consociationalism and centripetalism. Both include guidelines and explanations on how to share political power and on what type of power-sharing arrangements works best. The scholarly debate evolves around the critiques of these theories and focuses on the questions “what can be done” (criticizing practical use of centripetalism) versus “what should be done” (criticizing theoretical foundations of consociationalism). The power-sharing arrangements that were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq differ significantly and correspond for a large part with the two different theories. At the same time, the countries show important structural similarities which “provide the constraints that narrow the options” for power-sharing (Horowitz 2008:1247); In both countries the establishment of new power-sharing arrangements was caused in the same way, namely after US-led military intervention as part of the “War on Terror” and the toppling of governing regimes. Another similarity is that the US and its coalition partners had a special and important role in the period after the invasion when the countries had to be rebuild; not only as a mediator with great leverage, but also as an invader with an own agenda. Finally, the two interventions started less then 18 months after one another and the interim period - the period between the invasion and the adoption of the new constitution - was in both countries of similar duration, around three years. \ud \ud The fact that Afghanistan and Iraq show important structural similarities but adopted very different power-sharing arrangements that largely reflect different power-sharing theories, raises questions about how these differences can be explained. Donald Horowitz, a prominent scholar on power-sharing, recently argued that power-sharing arrangements are the outcome of negotiations that take place during constitutional processes that precede the adoption of the power-sharing arrangements (Horowitz 2008:1226, 1230). \ud \ud The structural similarities and different types of power-sharing arrangements in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with Horowitz’ notion that power-sharing arrangements are the outcome of constitutional processes, leads to the following research question: “How can differences in power-sharing arrangements in Afghanistan and Iraq be explained by Horowitz’ notion of constitutional process?” The answer to this question will provide insight in the particular composition of power-sharing arrangements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of focusing on what works best, as most power-sharing literature does, the focus in this research is on how to explain the particular composition of - and differences between – power-sharing arrangements

Topics: Letteren, power-sharing, constitutional processes, political processes, governance, Iraq, Afghanistan, political players, centripetalism, consociationalism, interim period, peace agreements, constitutions, group dimensions, conflict analysis
Year: 2009
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