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Afghanistan Heading For Spring Presidential Polls, Ponders Postponing District Council Elections


FILE: Afghan employees of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) wait to register residents at a voter registration center for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in Kabul.

Afghanistan is planning to hold a presidential election next spring as it postpones district council elections scheduled for October.

Reuters reported on July 31 that Kabul will hold its next presidential election on April 20 while the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan plans to postpone scheduled elections for more than 400 district councils primarily because no female candidates have come forward in at least 120 districts.

The potential date for a presidential election came as campaigns for parliamentary, provincial, and district council elections on October 20 have run into technical and organizational problems.

IEC spokesman Sayed Hafizullah Hashimi says the commission is considering postponing the election for district councils because not enough candidates, women in particular, have come forward to contest the polls.

“The current law requires candidates to have at least 12th-grade education (high school), but even many of our male candidates are unable to meet that condition,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “The women are lagging far behind [in education].”

Hashimi says that with most of the Afghan countryside grappling with insecurity, authorities are finding it difficult to alter conservative norms, which discourage women from participating in politics or holding public office. “We needed to anticipate such problems and could have prevented the issue,” he said.

He says Afghan authorities are working on new rules. “We are advising the government to relax the rules for women,” he said. “This way, we will have enough candidates to compete.”

While the Afghan Constitution identifies district councils as the third tier of legislatures, they were never formed because of insecurity. IEC has been postponing the district council polls since 2014.

Candidates for the presidential election are expected to be registered in November. Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani is expected to run again. Many powerful former officials, politicians and warlords have recently united in the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan.

Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, united in the national unity government after the 2014 presidential election failed to deliver a clear winner amid accusations of widespread fraud and irregularities.

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