Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sacked the chairman of the country’s Independent Election Commission on Wednesday, raising doubts over whether parliamentary and council ballots scheduled for next year will take place as planned. Najibullah Ahmadzai, head of the body charged with organizing the elections, had faced growing pressure following repeated delays to preparations for them and had lost the support of both Ghani and disillusioned foreign donors. The 2018 votes are seen as dry runs for a presidential election in 2019 and a key test of the progress made by Afghanistan’s Western-backed government towards establishing durable democratic institutions.
Following a contentious presidential election in 2014, marred by allegations of massive voter fraud on both sides, international donor countries have laid heavy emphasis on the need for successful elections next year.
But planning has been beset by a mix of technical and political problems that have made the officially scheduled date of July 2018 increasingly unrealistic. Five members of the seven-member IEC wrote to Ghani this week accusing Ahmadzai of was incompetence.