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Afghan Opposition Threatens Protests Over Presidential Term

Hanif Atmar is one of the presidential contenders calling on President Ashraf Ghani to step down.

A coalition of candidates in this year’s Afghan presidential election has said it will lead protests countrywide for President Ashraf Ghani to step down after what it says is the end of his constitutional term.

The presidential palace has countered that the demand violates the law. A presidential spokesman said the country’s Supreme Court has already allowed Ghani to remain in office until after the election, which is scheduled for September.

Speaking on behalf of a council of 13 presidential candidates, Shahab Hakeemi said he and his fellow candidates will organize protests to “uphold the rule of law and democracy” in Afghanistan.

“Beginning today, the national unity government has lost legitimacy and cannot run the government,” he said, alluding to Article 61 of the Afghan Constitution, which defines the presidential term. The council maintains that Ghani’s term ended on May 22.

“Our council has decided to mobilize people within the parameters of the law,” he said, adding that their supporters will engage in protest rallies, conferences, and other forms of “civil disobedience.”

Hanif Atmar, a leading presidential contender, says the issue is a major test for Ghani. “If he fails to honor our supreme law, there will be a crisis in the country,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Arif Samim says the administration does not agree with the opposition’s interpretation of Afghan law. He says the Supreme Court validated their position by ruling in April that Ghani can remain in office until the results of the polling on September 28 are announced.

“Individuals and political factions cannot interpret laws on their own,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “What the government’s political opposition is suggesting contravenes the supreme law. This amounts to a coup and an effort to undo the current political system.”

But supporters of most presidential candidates are unlikely to agree with the government’s position anytime soon.

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