Afghan presidential election delayed until July 20

KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan’s presidential election will be postponed until July 20, an official said last Sunday, as United States (US)-led efforts to end the 17-year war with the Taleban gather steam.

The three-month delay, announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), came after weeks of speculation that the vote would be put off to create more space for peace talks with Afghanistan’s largest militant group.

The presidential ballot was originally scheduled for April 20, which many observers had considered unrealistic given the IEC was still finalising results of October’s shambolic and bloody parliamentary elections.

Provincial and district council elections, as well as a previously postponed Parliamentary vote in Ghazni province, will be held on the same day, IEC Chief Abdul Badi Sayyad told reporters.

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, who plans to seek re-election, welcomed the new timeline.

Afghan election workers count ballots during the Parliamentary elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 20, 2018. An Afghan official says presidential polls, originally scheduled for April, will be held on July 20. – AP

“The Afghan government respects the decision by the IEC and is prepared to cooperate with the commission in holding the election in July,” Haroon Chakhansuri said in a statement.

Official reasons for the delay included the cold weather across much of Afghanistan in April, the expense of holding four separate elections and the complication of deploying security forces to protect different ballots.

Organisers also needed more time to recruit staff, train them in the use of biometric verification devices, and resolve other problems that had plagued the legislative vote.

“Based on the lessons we have learned from the previous election and to allow time for reforms, we had to review the decision of the previous election date,” Sayyad said.

Sayyad said the new date and the decision to hold the four elections on the same day were reached after two weeks of “extensive talks” with political leaders, security agencies and the government.

The IEC’s announcement came at a sensitive time for Afghanistan as the Taleban step up their offensive and US President Donald Trump’s plan to slash American troop numbers casts a shadow over US-led peace efforts that have gathered pace in recent months.