This article takes a comparative look at the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections to examine the critical role of ethnicity in post-Bonn politics. Afghanistan is home to a large number of sizeable ethnic groups. The national constitution and anthem have recognized 14 different major ethnic groups—making it truly the ‘land of ethnicities’. Since the establishment of the modern state in 1880–1901, ethnicity has had a drastic impact upon the political development, and conversely, political development greatly affected ethnic communities. Ethnicity gained in salience, particularly during the Soviet occupation, and gained the magic power to glue ethnic groups together during the civil wars, when state institutions failed, all platforms for constructive discourse were destroyed, and, above all, the resistance (jihad) evolved from an ideological cause into a mere ethnic struggle. The voting patterns in the 2004 and 2009 presidential elections clearly show that there still exists a great tendency of ethnic animosity on the part of one ethnic group against another on the fundamental question of power distribution, state legitimacy, and joint ownership over the new Afghanistan.

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