Alliance formed to challenge Afghan president’s re-election bid

Key Afghan government officials and major political parties have forged an alliance in a bid to challenge any move by President Ashraf Ghani to extend his term, in the face of growing concerns about elections being postponed. (AP)
Updated 27 July 2018

Alliance formed to challenge Afghan president’s re-election bid

  • The alliance, launched on Thursday, said it aims to improve governance, create jobs, ensure the holding of transparent elections, and maintain security across the country.
  • President Ghani said the coalition should help the government resolve key national issues.

KABUL: Key Afghan government officials and major political parties have forged an alliance in a bid to challenge any move by President Ashraf Ghani to extend his term, in the face of growing concerns about elections being postponed.
The Grand Coalition of Afghanistan includes First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who recently returned from 14 months in exile, Second Deputy Executive Chief Mohammad Mohaqiq, Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, key regional strongmen and former Cabinet ministers.
Dostum’s unexpected participation in the alliance comes amid reports of a stalemate in talks with Ghani over the release of one of the vice president’s commanders.
His arrest a few weeks ago sparked massive anti-government protests in the north, and led to Dostum’s return to put an end to them.
The alliance, launched on Thursday, said it aims to improve governance, create jobs, ensure the holding of transparent elections, and maintain security across the country.
The coalition “marks a major display of unity in which Afghanistan’s core political and social forces have converged to bring democratic changes in accordance with our peoples’ will and needs, for a democratic, all-inclusive and stable Afghanistan,” Rabbani said.
The alliance said its focus is primarily on “growing instability, poverty and ethnic divisions” in the country, among other issues.
Ghani recently said he will run for a second term in next year’s presidential election, which will be followed by long-delayed parliamentary polls.
With the Taliban gaining ground, and the Ghani administration losing its writ over hundreds of polling stations due to rising violence and deepening divisions within the government, many believe that neither election will be held as announced.
Atta Mohammad Noor, the de facto ruler of the northern Balkh province, said at the launch of the alliance: “Afghanistan is on the verge of collapsing due to the ineffectiveness of government leaders.”
Nearly 4 million people, out of 9 million registered by the government-appointed election body, are “fake voters,” he added.
Dostum said the alliance comprises different political and ethnic groups, which “articulated peace, stability and a constructive role to improve the current state of affairs.”
Mohaqiq also lashed out at the government during the launch of the alliance, describing the current situation in Afghanistan as “worrisome.”
People are fleeing their homes due to insecurity, and a significant part of the country is under militant control, he said.
Ghani said the alliance should help his administration overcome challenges. “The NUG (national unity government) welcomes pragmatic approaches, suggestions and plans by political parties, coalitions and civil society, provided they’re in accordance with the law and wishes of the people,” said a statement released by the president’s office.
“Given the current circumstances, elections, peace and reconciliation are top priorities of the NUG.”
Ghani said his administration pays utmost importance to achieving consensus between the government and political parties.
Constructive ideas and proposals by these groups can help the government and the people to achieve critical national objectives, he added.
Waheed Mozhdah, a Kabul-based political analyst, told Arab News that the formation of the alliance is a “serious challenge for Ghani,” and a sign of how his “wrong policies” alienated senior government members and reconciled old rivals.
“This is a major development. It’s in fact the formation of a front against Ghani, who has failed to reach peace with the Taliban, leading the US to try to hold direct talks with the group,” Mozhdah said.
“It’s highly likely that the elections won’t be held, so the alliance is bracing itself to block any extension of Ghani’s power when his mandate expires,” he added.
“Afghanistan is an unpredictable place. Unless things change, the chance of Ghani winning another term is doomed to failure.”
Atta Nasib, a pro-Ghani parliamentary candidate, said the alliance has nothing to offer common Afghans.
The factions that are part of the coalition had forged similar ones in the past, but without any impact, he added.
“Welcome to the New Grand Coalition of the same old tried and tested telepathic superheroes riding high on jihadi ballistic missiles,” Nasib tweeted.
“For once I’m curious to learn more about issue-based politics that this fragile coalition claims to bring to the table.”


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.