x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

41 to contest Afghanistan poll

Afghanistan unveils 41 candidates who will contest the Aug 20 presidential elections, including the president Hamid Karzai.

Afghanistan's electoral authority has unveiled a final list of 41 candidates for Aug 20 presidential elections that includes the incumbent president Hamid Karzai. The number is down from a provisional list of 44 people, most of them unknown, after two men were disqualified and one dropped out, the Independent Election Commission president Azizullah Lodin said. Still in the running are the former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and the former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, seen by many observers as the strongest challengers to Mr Karzai who is going for a second term.

Mr Lodin complained that many of the candidates should not be on the ballot paper because they were not qualified to be president, lacking a profile and education. "Unfortunately I have to announce that we have this long list," he said, pointing to the names of candidates for second presidential election in Afghanistan's history. Eighteen people ran in the first presidential elections, held in 2004 and won by Mr Karzai with 55.4 per cent of the vote.

Mr Lodin said a would-be candidate Mohammad Daud Miraki, one of the unknowns, had announced he was dropping out the race. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) had meanwhile expelled a Turkman factional warlord Muhammad Akbar Bai and another unknown, Sayyed Jafar Hufyani, Mr Lodin said. A man named Ziauddin, the second vice presidential running mate for Sangin Mohammad Rahmani, was also disqualified by the commission, he said.

Mr Lodin would not say on which basis these men had been removed from the list. The ECC said last week that it had barred three people from the presidential race and 54 from simultaneous vote for the provincial council, most of them for links to illegal armed groups. One had dual nationality and one had a criminal conviction, it said. Mr Lodin criticised electoral laws that set a low bar for qualification to stand, including that a candidate should have Afghan parents, be at least 40 years old and not be linked to crimes.

He said he had been pushing for higher standards, including that candidates should have higher education and at least 10 years' working experience. "If our suggestions were accepted maybe we would have two, three or four people left and the rest would have been dismissed," Mr Lodin said. He was scathing of some of the runners, without naming them. "There are people among the candidates that even if you are not a psychiatrist you would say take them to the Ali Abad hospital," he said, referring to a Kabul mental hospital.

"The law says a candidate must have a good reputation, has not committed actions against Islam and national issues. A number of candidate are famous for committing actions against national interests," he said. The final list includes two women, a parliamentarian and a doctor, and a former member of the Taliban regime. *AFP