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Afghan Presidential polls’ campaign gets a new life

August 29, 2019
tags:#Afghanistan, #election
by:Shadi Khan Saif
As the nascent yet rejuvenated peace talks linger on, campaign for presidential elections in Afghanistan has gained momentum.  With prospects of the likely elections becoming more prominent at the heels of grim uncertainties, colorful posters of the presidential candidates have covered the old narrow streets as well as the recently constructed boulevards in the capital Kabul.

Television channels are flooded with craftily produced campaign videos, while the candidates are on public gathering spree round-the-clock, appearing in different traditional attires in order to influence potential voters of diverse backgrounds.

The maiden four week of the official campaign in July were evidently sluggish and overshadowed by speculations about the establishment of an interim government undermining the elections scheduled for Sep. 28 later this year.

However, that changed this week (Aug 29, 2019) as clear signs of support for these elections emerged from Afghanistan’s western backers, in spite of apparent rush on the part of the U.S. for the pulling of troops from Afghanistan.

A few days earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul announced it would provide $ 29 million for the polls as Ambassador John R. Bass urged all candidates to respect the Afghan law that prohibits candidates, whether in government or not, from using government resources to benefit their campaign. ''And, we expect all the candidates, whether they are currently in government positions or not, to refrain from trying to use government resources, whether that is money, whether that's the power to appoint people, whether that is simply going about their business in ways, that is intended to benefit their campaign,'' Bass said.

State Builder dominates campaign

Political observers and residents in various parts of the landlocked country told FairPlanet that in the month since the campaign for the presidential polls began, the State Builder team of incumbent President Ghani has been dominating the campaign drive. This was the general trend in the relatively safe major urban centers such as Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif, Ghazni, and Gardez.

President Ghani is closely followed by his power-sharing Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah – who is among the total of 18 candidates. Both have been accused of using state resources for their campaign, yet they deny any wrongdoing.   

President Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has entered the race to retain his power with the slogan of ‘State Builder’. The 69-year-old has joined hands with his former critic, Amrullah Saleh, former spy chief, and Prof. Sarwar Danish, as proposed deputies to form the electoral ticket of ‘State Builder’, pledging a strong government with continuation of the reforms agenda and quest for peace.

A recent study by a leading electoral watchdog has revealed the results of its pre-poll survey, indicating potential victory for the incumbent President Ghani.

The study by Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, based on interaction with more than 5000 citizens across the country, noted that 43 percent of respondents said they would vote in the coming elections, while nearly 57 percent said they are not likely to take part. Based on this study, President Ghani is closely followed by his power-sharing Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah for a likely victory in the September polls.

Political wrangling intensifies  

Political analyst Dr. Nezaum Uddin told FairPlanet that the polls are likely to enter a second, most crucial round between the incumbent president and his power-sharing CE. “Weeks ahead of the polls you can see candidates switching sides and entering new alliances because the uncertainty surrounding the polls has vanished to a great extent. This is likely to leave impacts on the likely results and a close fight in the second and final round is expected between (President Ashraf) Ghani and (Chief Executive) Abdullah,” said Uddin.

President Ghani’s proposed deputy, Saleh, is also from the same Jamiat party that has been at the center stage of power in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Abdullah has the backing of Vice President Abdul Rasheed Dostum, who has the support of ethnic Uzbeks, Kareem Khalili (an ethnic Shia-Hazara politician), and of Salahuddin Rabbani - former foreign minister and president of the Jamiat party. The CE has failed to earn the support of Hekmat Khalil Karzai, an emerging ethnic Pashtun politician from the southern heartland of Kandahar. Karzai announced moments before the nomination of Abdullah that he is backing no candidate, and would instead focus his efforts on bringing peace to the country.

Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the former national security adviser, has suspended his campaign for the presidential elections amid internal rifts.

For now, much of the campaign is centered in Kabul, where a string of deadly bombings by Taliban and the so-called Islamic State has been spreading panic. The deadliest attack took place at a wedding hall, turning the ceremony into funeral of more than 80 people.

The list of all 16 candidates in the presidential polls includes: Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Rehmatullah Nabil, Ahmad Wali Massoud, Hakeem Torsan, Syed Noorullah Jalili, Sheda Mohammad Abdali, Enayatullah Hafeez, Ghulam Farooq Najrabi, Faramarz Tamana, Lateef Pidram, Mohammad Ibrahim Alakozay, Mohammad Shahab Hakimi, Noorul Haq Ulomi, and Noor Rehman Lewal.

Article written by:
Shadi Khan Saif
Author, Contributing Editor
Embed from Getty Images
Television channels are flooded with craftily produced campaign videos.
Embed from Getty Images
Clear signs of support for these elections from Afghanistan’s western backers in spite of apparent rush on the part of the U.S. for exit of troops from Afghanistan.
Embed from Getty Images
Much of the campaign is centered in Kabul that saw a string of deadly bombings by Taliban and so-called Islamic State spreading panic.
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