KABUL: Afghanistan’s presidential election, which had been delayed once already, has again been pushed back and will now be held on Sept. 28 instead of July 6, the country’s election commission announced on Wednesday.
The poll was originally scheduled for April, but after mismanagement and allegations of fraud during the parliamentary elections in October, under the government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC), it was moved to July.
Both delays have come as talks continue between the Taliban and US delegates in an attempt to find a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, and growing claims by some political parties about the alleged inability of the government to hold the vote in a fair and free manner. Some candidates even accuse President Ashraf Ghani, who is standing for re-election, of using the process in his favor.
Hawa Alam Nuristani took over as head of the IEC in March after the organization’s key commissioners were fired. While announcing the new election date in Kabul, she described last year’s parliamentary vote as the “worst and most controversial” polls held since the Taliban was ousted in 2001, and said the decision to delay the presidential vote had been taken to “ensure transparency of the elections and voter registration.”
Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said the government respects the IEC decision. “According to information, the IEC, following consultation with the political parties and civil societies supervising the elections, has reached a decision to delay the elections,” he wrote in a message on Twitter. “Now the government with all its resources is prepared to cooperate with IEC so that we witness transparent elections in the country.”
Waheed Mozhdah, an Afghan political analyst, suggested that the latest delay was the result of pressure from the US which, he said, wanted the election pushed back to give the current talks with the Taliban a chance to succeed so that the militants can take part. He said Washington fears that if the elections are held before a breakthrough then the negotiations will be delayed for five years until the next round of elections, because the Taliban refuses to recognize the legitimacy of any polls held while the US military is still in Afghanistan.
“The issue of talks with the Taliban is important for America,” added Mozhdah. “I see the US role and pressure more relevant in the delay.”
US and Taliban delegates held the latest, intensive round of talks in Qatar less than two weeks ago. Both sides said progress was made on the withdrawal of troops and the Taliban’s assurance that it will not allow the country to be used as a base for attacks against any country or American interests. Both sides are expected meet again at the end of this month. Ghani’s government has been sidelined from the talks because the Taliban refuses to recognize it as legitimate.