Afghanistan delays crucial presidential vote for a second time

An Afghan man casts his vote during the parliamentary election at a polling station in Kabul on Oct. 21, 2018. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 21 March 2019

Afghanistan delays crucial presidential vote for a second time

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.


Turkey blocks delivery of medical equipment to coronavirus hard-hit Spain

Updated 7 min 58 sec ago

Turkey blocks delivery of medical equipment to coronavirus hard-hit Spain

  • Spain had yet to receive the respirators it had bought from China after Turkey “decided to keep them in case they may need them in their battle against coronavirus”
  • Turkey earlier restricted the export of respirator-related medical equipment in order to meet domestic needs

DUBAI: The Spanish government said on Friday that Turkey had blocked a delivery of medical supplies urgently needed to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the country, local daily El Pais reported.  

Spain had yet to receive the respirators it had bought from China after Turkey “decided to keep them in case they may need them in their battle against coronavirus,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said during a press conference.

The newly appointed minister of Spain - which on Saturday has briefly overtaken Italy as the country with the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections - said the equipment remained in Turkish custody over Ankara’s restrictions on the export of medical devices.

Last month Turkey’s trade minister said the country was restricting the export of respirator-related medical equipment in order to meet domestic needs.

Ruhsar Pekcan said that the export of equipment including ventilators, intubation devices and intensive care monitors would be subject to government authorization.

The Spanish embassy said it had been trying to resume the delivery of the respirators, which were particularly bought by two local communities with critically ill coronavirus patients, according to unnamed sources cited by El Pais.