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By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, July 12, 2004

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PARIS, 12 July (IPS) As the Afghan electoral Commission separated the presidential elections from the legislative races, Afghan analysts and politicians expressed resentment, saying time is not yet ready for any kind of elections before at least two years time.

The Commission decided to keep the presidential elections on 9 October, but delayed the legislative vote until next April. Under the Afghan constitution presidential and parliamentary polls were to be held as close together as possible. The announcement ends weeks of haggling over the date for elections, which were originally due to take place simultaneously in June.

“As it goes, the presidential election is tailor-made for Hamed Karzai”, one analyst said, referring to the present American-backed and installed Afghan Prime Minister.


"All we hope is that the Americans continue helping us fighting the Taleban and terrorism, reconstructing the war-ravaged nation, but do not interfere in our affairs"


Mr. Karzai, who belongs to the majority Pashtun tribe, was nominated by representative of Afghanistan’s ethnics and provinces, including powerful commanders who had gathered in Bonn, Germany, late 2001 after the ruling Taleban regime had been booted out by American forces.

He was latter confirmed by an extraordinary Loya Jirga, or a national council of the elders. His mandate has already expired and the elections have been delayed twice, missing June and September deadlines.

“All the dates for the elections have been decided too hastily. Time is not ready for such events in Afghanistan, because of the generalised atmosphere of insecurity, because that except the capital, other areas of the nation are outside the control of the government, because people are not yet disarmed and there are no proper system for communications”, Seyyed Pir Eshaq Gilani, a candidate to the president elections pointed out.

Several prominent Afghan politicians and political parties and five candidates sent a joint letter to the United Nations General Secretary calling for the delay in the elections for at least two years, citing the lack of security, continuation of fighting in several areas and also the absence of equal opportunities for other candidates except Mr. Karzai.

However, the United States backed the decision to hold presidential polls in October, calling it a "milestone" on the road to constitutional and representative government.

Zakim Shah, Head of Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body, said it would have a "negative effect on public opinion" if the vote did not happen in October.

But the presidential mandate will be only partial because voter registration has proceeded slowly, especially in the south and southeast of the country, where insurgency by Taleban and Al-Qa’eda remnants has stymied the process.

So far 6.5 million of Afghanistan's estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have registered to vote but in 19 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces less than 50 percent of population have so far put their names on electoral lists.

“Afghanistan's October presidential polls are a democratic milestone, but to give the country real grass-roots democracy authorities must disarm regional warlords and stem surging violence ahead of next year's parliamentary vote”, Mr. Torab Mostowfi, an Iranian journalist who covers Afghan affairs told Iran Press Service.

Election officials said Friday that the already-delayed parliamentary vote would be put off again until April to allow more time for voter registration, the disarming of militia and the strengthening of Afghan security forces.

"It's encouraging that there is the prospect of the people of Afghanistan going towards polling in the time which was promised, the Afghan month of Mizan", presidential spokesman Jawad Ludin told the French news agency AFP.

Remnants of the ousted Taleban regime have threatened to disturb the polls and have attempted to intimidate people, mostly women, into not registering and in two recent attacks, gunmen killed 16 men carrying registration cards at a roadblock in Oruzgan province.

Some 6.5 million people of an estimated 9.8 million eligible have enrolled to vote, although participation has been notably lower in the southern regions.

"As it goes, the presidential election is tailor-made for Hamed Karzai"


Election officials stressed that the coming months can be used to improve the security situation and called on the government and the international community to "continue and intensify.... their efforts to strengthen the national army and the national police, and to achieve broader disarmament".

Mr Karzai is expected to win another term as president, though some political analysts in Kabul think the poll may go to a second round as up to a dozen rivals split the vote.

Candidates now have until the last week of July to announce their intention to run formally, which they must do 75 days before the election.

Mr. Latif Pedram, a candidate from the Afghanistan’s National Congress (ANC) said although he also think that conditions are not ripe for elections, yet, considering the situation, the ANC backs the dates for the presidential election.

Both Mr. Pedram and Gilani said with all the government’s “huge possibilities of all kinds” to his service, Karzai looks certain of winning the race.

They also said that the reason Washington also presses for keeping the Afghan presidential election on 9 October is to allow the American president George W. Bush presenting the Afghan elections as a major victory for himself, “as a man who has restored democracy and freedom to both Afghanistan and Iraq”.

“The Americans say they want restore freedom and democracy in Afghanistan. But that is not enough. All we hope is that they continue helping us fighting the Taleban and terrorism, reconstructing the war-ravaged nation, but do not interfere in our affairs, letting us to decide on our own government”, Mr. Gilani told the Persian service of Radio France |International. ENDS AFGHAN ELECTIONS 12704


Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan set October 9 as the date for long-delayed presidential polls but delayed trickier parliamentary elections until the spring.
(AFP/Getty Images/File/William Thomas Cain)


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