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Afghanistan Sets October Date For Parliamentary Elections

FILE: Voters in the southern province of Helmand wait to cast their votes in April 2014.
FILE: Voters in the southern province of Helmand wait to cast their votes in April 2014.

Afghanistan's election authorities have set October 20 as the date for long-delayed legislative and district council elections.

Abdul Badi Sayad, chief of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said on April 1 that the commission was confident the vote could go ahead despite the difficulties in areas controlled by the Taliban.

"Afghan security forces have assured us they will carry out operations in insecure areas not in government control and to ensure security for people in the voter registration and voting stages of the election," Sayad said.

He also told a news conference that eligible voters would be able to apply for registration cards in mid-April, before candidates formally declare.

President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to hold the elections for the 249 seats in the National Assembly before the presidential vote scheduled for next year.

But the polls have been repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical challenges.

The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan welcomed the commission's announcement, and called for the inclusion of all Afghans in the election process.

"Setting a firm date for elections is a notably positive and important development in the work of the IEC, and will allow progress from the formal planning stages to implementation," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

"Transparent and inclusive elections are an essential component of Afghanistan demonstrating the strength of the democratic political processes taking root here," he also said in a statement.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In October 2017, insurgents controlled or influenced nearly half of Afghanistan's districts, the U.S. government's office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in January.

It remained unclear how polling would be held in the contested areas and whether Afghans lacking identity cards and those displaced by conflict will be eligible to vote.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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