Afghan presidential candidates continue campaigning amid escalating security threats by the Taliban militant group, Press TV reports. The Taliban have rejected the April election and stepped up attacks to sabotage the electoral process. This comes after presidential candidates in Afghanistan began two months of campaigning for the April 5 election. The presidential hopefuls discuss issues at small rallies ranging from the Taliban to the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan. They also have outlined their working plans after being elected as the country’s new president.
Articles about voting issues in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan said it met with U.N., human rights officials and foreign representatives to review plans for the April vote. The IEC said members of the Afghan Human Rights Commission met in Kabul with election officials, U.N. officials and foreign envoys to discuss April elections. A running clock on the IEC website says elections are in 45 days. Jan Kubis, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, said national officials should coordinate more closely to ensure the results of the April presidential and provincial council elections are accepted by winners and losers alike.
The posters are printed. The rallies are organized. A televised debate is planned. Campaign season for Afghanistan’s presidential election kicks off Sunday, and the stakes are high for the 11 candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai and oversee the final chapter in a NATO-led combat mission. The April 5 vote is a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history, its outcome seen as make-or-break for the country’s future and key to the level of foreign involvement here after nearly 13 years of war. Billions of dollars in funds are tied to the government’s holding a free and fair election — the first independent vote organized by Afghanistan without direct foreign assistance. Amid a surge in violence from the Taliban ahead of the NATO combat troop withdrawal at the end of the year, the poll also will be a crucial test of whether Afghanistan can ensure a stable transition. And the West will be watching the vote as means of gauging the success of its efforts to foster democracy and bolster security over the past 12 years.
As Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections is getting closer, both the election commission and the citizens are increasingly concerned that security challenges may disrupt the polling process. ”Security problems have remained the main challenge before holding elections and it is a matter of concerns for the Independent Election Commission(IEC),” spokesman for the election body, Noor Mohammad Noor told Xinhua recently. He also confirmed that the election commission had failed to open registration centers for voters in four districts of Bagran, Disho, Kakar and Alasai in the country’s more than 400 districts because of security problems. Afghanistan’s third presidential and provincial councils’ elections are slated for April 5, 2014 in the post-Taliban nation amid Taliban threats to disrupt the process. Meanwhile, Noon Mohammad Noor, the IEC spokesman, admitted that security problems are a challenge for the historic polls scheduled for April next year.
An American organization tasked with furthering democracy in developing nations said Monday that while elections next April in Afghanistan are unlikely to be perfect, they should be better than previous polls marred by widespread fraud. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs said its assessment mission to Afghanistan believes there is “guarded optimism” about the April 5 polls that will elect a new president to succeed Hamid Karzai, along with local council members for the country’s 34 provinces. But the organization said the elections still face serious challenges, including security, potential fraud and even weather conditions that could affect voter turnout. The 2009 presidential election was so soiled that U.N.-backed fraud investigators threw out more than 1 million votes — enough to force a second round. Many observers blamed much of the fraud on Karzai’s supporters, but he blamed the U.S. for allegedly interfering against him. In the end, the opposing candidate dropped out and Karzai was elected was elected to a second and final five-year term. Since then, reforms in the voting process have tried to make the elections commissions more independent of the presidency.
Organizers of Afghanistan’s make-or-break presidential election next year say poor security, a shortage of monitors and funding holes are undermining their ability to safeguard the process from the widespread fraud that marred the last poll in 2009. Another deeply flawed election would undermine the attempts of Washington and its allies to foster democracy ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops later in 2014. ”The foundation of the election due to technical issues was not done in the proper way,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC). “We need measures to secure the process through observers.” Western nations, who have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a conflict that has failed to end the Taliban insurgency, have pledged about a third less cash to the United Nations (U.N.) fund that will cover most of the election’s costs compared with 2009, official U.N. figures shows. The reduced budget is partly because some land and equipment that had to be bought last time is being reused and fewer foreign advisers are needed, say the U.N. and IEC chief Yousof Nooristani.
With Afghanistan’s next presidential election just five months away, authorities say they are facing a possible repeat of the abuses that have discredited the country’s efforts to build a democracy. Election officials say they can only estimate how many voters are really on the rolls. Added to the confusion are millions of additional registration cards from the elections of the past. Taliban threats cast a further damper. ”This is the reality of this country. We are conducting elections in a difficult situation, with poor security, but we must conduct elections,” said Noor Mohammed Noor, the head of the Independent Election Commission. “It is the only way for our country to succeed.” A credible election would do much for the West’s efforts to foster democracy in Afghanistan after allegations of fraud marred the 2009 vote that handed President Hamid Karzai a second term. He is banned by the constitution from running for a third.
Khadija Ghaznawi says she knows exactly how to end the long-simmering conflict in Afghanistan: build more factories. A logistics company owner by profession and peace activist on the side, Ghaznawi says that if the government had been diligent about creating more jobs for Afghans, militants would have laid down their arms already. “The Afghan Taliban are also sick of fighting,” she says. “They haven’t gotten any of the opportunities from aid money that came into this country. If we provide work and education for their kids, they’ll stop.” That was one of the causes Ghaznawi was planning to champion as the only woman running for president in Afghanistan’s upcoming national elections — that is, until she was disqualified a few days ago. In 162 days, Afghan voters will choose their next president, in an election that stands to shape the future of this troubled nation in the year the U.S. completes its withdrawal after more than a decade-long occupation. But Ghaznawi will most likely not be on the ballot. On Oct. 22, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that over half the candidates who had put their names forward for the job did not qualify to run. Ghaznawi says she has no idea why she was booted off the list. “The elections commission didn’t tell me why,” she said. “I haven’t received one phone call… I’m very angry with the decision.”
Sayed Gul walked into a small mud brick room in eastern Afghanistan, a bundle wrapped in a shawl on his back. With a flick, he plonked the package onto a threadbare carpet and hundreds of voter cards spilled out. ”How many do you want to buy?” he asked with a grin. Like many others, Gul left a routine job – in his case, repairing cars in Marco, a small town in the east – to join a thriving industry selling the outcome of next year’s presidential elections. Gul, who had a long, black beard and was dressed in the traditional loose salwar kameez, said he was able to buy voter cards for 200 Pakistani rupees ($1.89) each from villagers and sell them on for 500 rupees ($4.73) to campaign managers, who can use them in connivance with poll officials to cast seemingly legitimate votes. From each card, Gul said, he made enough money to pay for a hearty meal like kebabs with rice, and maybe even a soda.
Afghanistan: Gunman kills provincial election official days after start of campaign season | Associated Press
A gunman killed the head of a provincial election commission in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said. The shooting came as Afghanistan’s campaign season started this week, with authorities accepting candidate nominations for presidential and provincial elections next spring. The man slain in Wednesday’s attack, Amanullah Aman, is believed to be the highest-ranking election official to be killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.