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Afghanistan Presidential Election - 05 April 2014

TajikAbdullah Abdullahformer Foreign Minister
PashtunHidayat Amin Arsalaformer presidential adviser
PashtunAshraf Ghaniformer Finance Minister
PashtunQutbuddin Hilal Hezb-e-Islami (Islamic Party) leader
PashtunQayum KarzaiPresident Karzai's brother
PashtunSardar Nadir Naeem former royal family member
PashtunZalmai Rassoul / Zalmay Rasulformer Foreign Minister
PashtunAbdul Rasul Sayyaf Afghan Salafi leader
PashtunMohammad Shafiq, aka
Gul Agha Sherzai / Gul Afghan
former Governor
PashtunDaud Sultanzoi former parliament deputy
PashtunAbdul Rahim Wardak former Defense Minister

Afghans celebrated a largely peaceful election on Saturday 05 April 2014. Voters had a list of eight presidential candidates to choose from, of which three are front-runners: Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official; Zalmai Rassoul, a former minister; and Abdullah Abdullah, also a former minister. Some 450 provincial government seats also were at stake.

Turnout exceeded predictions despite Taliban threats to disrupt the vote to choose President Hamid Karzai's successor. Long queues of voters waited throughout the day outside many of the 6,400 polling centres before the prolonged process of counting began, with preliminary results not due until 24 April 2014. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round a run-off is scheduled for late May.

Afghan voters braved heavy rains, long lines, and the threat of Taliban attacks to cast ballots in what appears unprecedented numbers in the April 5 presidential election. But many ended up going home disappointed. The reason: Not enough ballots. According to some reports, there have been ballot shortages in as many as 15 of the country's 34 provinces. There were even shortages in the capital, Kabul. The high turnout on April 5 appeared to catch many election organizers off-guard.

In an effort to prevent the widespread fraud and ballot-box stuffing critics allege took place five years ago -- when due to the low turnout, there was an excess of ballots -- each polling station was limited to only 600 this time. Officials estimated that this would have been enough. But many polling stations, especially in the major urban centers, attracted thousands of people.

This election is seen as crucial to the country's stability after the withdrawal of NATO troops at the end of 2014. President Hamid Karzai, who is serving his second term, is constitutionally barred from running again. Campaigning for Afghanistan's presidential election began 02 February 2014. The campaign for the successor to Hamid Karzai officially began Sunday for the April 5 poll. Karzai cannot run for a third term under Afghan law. Eleven candidates registered their names to contest for the race. While the field of 11 could narrow as the campaign grinds on, there is currently no clear leading contender. None of the candidates is expected to garner the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Analysts cite several strong presidential candidates: former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and the president's elder brother, Qayum Karzai.

On 11 August 2011 Hamid Karzai said he would not seek a third term in office, and rejected opposition accusations he was preparing to change the constitution and continue his rule. Karzai said he would abide by the constitution's demand that he step down when his second five-year term concludes in 2014. Americans searching for a serious successor to Karzai are likely to settle on someone who can claim to be a moderate Pashtun -- someone like Hanif Atmar (who lost his job in Karzai's government) or even Gul Agha Shirzai (the governor of Nangarhar Province).

Potential 2013 Presidential candidates [including some persons once thought likely to be candidates, though later thought unlikely to run] initially included:

  1. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah - Foreign Minister from 2001 to 2006; strongly associated with Panjshiri Tajiks.
  2. Dr. Anwarulhaq Ahadi - Minister of Finance and head of the Afghan Millat Party; Pashtun
  3. Mawlawi Abdul Aziz Ahmadzai - An Ahmadzai tribe Pashtun, who fought against the Soviets; chairman of the Kabul Provincial Council, religiously oriented.
  4. Edayat Amin Arsallah [aka Hedayat Amin Arsala ] - Senior Minister in the Karzai cabinet (Pashtun)
  5. Mohammad Hanif Atmar - Minister of Education, Interior Minister (Pashtun)
  6. Shahla Atta - female candiate in 2009, Lower House MP (Kabul Pashtun and U.S. citizen)
  7. Akbar Bai - Ethnic Turkmen leader
  8. Ramazan Bashardost - Lower House MP (Kabul, Hazara)
  9. Engineer Ehsanullah Bayat - Owner of the AWCC cell phone company and Ariana TV station, founder of the Bayat Foundation, a charity (Pashtun)
  10. Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Uzbek)
  11. Pir Gailani - head of religiously influential family (Pashtun)
  12. Ashraf Ghani - Academic and former World Bank executive; finance minister in the Afghan interim government. (Pashtun)
  13. Abdul Qader Imami Ghori - Lower House MP (Tajik)
  14. Mawlawi Mohammed Sayed Hashimi - independent candidate in 2009
  15. Masooda Jalal - only female candidate in 2004 election (Tajik)
  16. Ali Ahmad Jalali - Minister of Interior from January 2003 to September 2005 (Pashtun)
  17. Sayed Jalal Karim - Persian Gulf-based businessman
  18. Zalmay Khalilzad - Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan
  19. Ahmad Zia Massoud - First Vice President (Tajik)
  20. Ustad Mutasem Bellah Mazhabi - moderate religious scholar (Pashtun)
  21. Haji Mohammad Mohaqqeq - Lower House MP (Hazara)
  22. Zabiullah Ghazi Nooristani - Leader of the Justice and Development Party of Afghanistan; probable U.S. green card holder.
  23. Yunous Qanooni - Speaker of the Lower House (Tajik)
  24. Mullah Abdul Salaam Raketi - Lower House MP (Zabol, Pashtun)
  25. Prof. Abdul Rassoul - former Education Minister (Pashtun)
  26. Abdul Jabar Sabit/Sabet, former attorney general (Pashtun)
  27. Prince Ali Seraj - nephew of the late king (Pashtun)
  28. Gul Aqa Sherzai - Nangarhar Governor (Pashtun)
  29. Mohammad Dawood Sultanzoi - Lower House MP (Pashtun)
  30. Shanawaz Tanai - led an unsuccessful 1990 coup against the Soviet-backed government
  31. Mustafa Zahir - Grandson of the late King Zahir Shah; director of the Afghan Environmental Protection Department (Pashtun)

Afghan politicians and former warlords reached last-minute deals as they officially submited their names to run in the country's upcoming Presidential election to succeed President Karzai. Nominations closed October 06, 2013. The final days of the nomination period were marked by a frenzy of intrigue as former warlords, tribal leaders and veteran politicians formed alliances. Prominent among the candidates are former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, former foreign minister and President Karzai's rival in 2009 Abdullah Abdullah, former warlord Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf and President Karzai's elder brother Qayum Karzai.

While the list of registered contenders for the April 5 presidential election ended weeks of speculation over who is going to seek to replace President Hamid Karzai, the race remained wide open, with no clear front-runner. Several prominent Afghan personalities were among the candidates who filed nominations to the Independent Election Commission in Kabul Sunday, just hours before it closed the registration campaign. They include former foreign minister Zalmay Rassoul, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who oversaw the transfer of security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan security forces, and Qayum Karzai, elder brother of the Afghan president. Other top contenders include former foreign minister Abullah Abdullah, who was the runner-up to President Karzai in the 2009 polls, and lawmaker Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, an influential ethnic Pashtun religious scholar. The April election is the first independent vote Afghanistan is organizing without direct foreign assistance, and it was taking place during the same year that American-led military coalition will wind up its combat mission in the country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzais brother dropped out of the April 5 presidential race on March 06, 2014 and urged supporters to back former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul in the election. Observers believe the political move is part of President Karzai's strategy to boost his preferred successor. Qayum Karzai, the elder brother of the incumbent president, told reporters in Kabul he made the decision after consulting elders in 28 of the 34 Afghan provinces. He described his team as "an essential part" of the new alliance. Karzais exit left 10 candidates in the race, including opposition politician Abdullah Abdullah, runner-up of the fraud-riddled 2009 presidential polls, and Ashraf Ghani, who served as former finance minister under President Karzais administration.

President Karzais refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States to extend the American military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014 could be part of his election strategy to win public support for his favored candidate. All prominent presidential candidates, including Rassoul, supported signing the security deal with the US. President Karzai appeared to be striving for an influential background role after his presidential term ended.

A third candidate quit Afghanistan's April 5 presidential race on 26 March 2014. Sardar Mohammad Nader Naim told reporters in Kabul that he would throw his support behind former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasul, who was also present at the press conference. Naim, 49, is the grandson of former King Zahir Shah.

The chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, told reporters in Kabul 20 April 2014 that his staff had counted about half of the estimated seven million ballots cast on the polling day. He said of the eight presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote, followed by Ashraf Ghani with 33 percent. However, Nouristani refused to speculate on whether the two lead candidates were heading for a run-off. We will be able to let you know in a couple of days whether it is really going to second round or not and it is too early to tell, he said. A candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared the winner in the first round.

Preliminary results show Afghanistan's April 5 presidential election will have to go to a second-round run-off vote between former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani. Afghan election officials said 26 April 2014 that neither of the top two candidates won a majority of the overall vote. The official count showed Abdullah won 44.9 percent of the vote and Ghani 31.5 percent.

The two frontrunners in Afghanistans presidential election started political campaigning on 22 May 2014 in their final bid to succeed President Hamid Karzai. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, a former Afghan foreign minister and anti-Taliban figure who won 45 percent of votes in the inconclusive first round, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former John Hopkins University lecturer who secured 31.56 percent, are competing in the runoff. Each of the two presidential hopefuls had two running mates, and none was a female.

The political campaigning would go on until 11 June followed by two days of silence and the nationwide polling will be conducted on June 14. Preliminary election results will be announced on July 2 and after a two-week complaint and adjudication process, final results will be announced on July 22. By early August, if all things go as planned, the new Afghan president will be inaugurated.

More than 800 voting centers in Afghanistan, mostly in the country's volatile south and east, were closed due to security concerns as Afghans head to the polls for the 14 June 2014 presidential runoff. Some 6,300 polling stations, most of them segregated for male and female voters, were open as presidential frontrunners Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister and anti-Taliban figure, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former finance minister and World Bank official, seek to clinch the country's top office. Analysts said the candidates were locked in a statistical dead heat.

Abdullah Abdullah called for a halt to vote-counting from the runoff election because of fraud allegations, raising the possibility of a political crisis during the country's first democratic transition of power. Initial results from the vote put Ghani in the lead by close to a million votes.

Abdullah alleged mass fraud has been committed during the runoff vote that pitted him against former finance minister Ghani. He accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his provincial governors and security personnel of complicity in rigging the polls. Ghani said he ruled out a power-sharing deal with Abdullah.

Afghan Independent Election Commission chief Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani declared the preliminary results on 07 July 2014. He said that more than 8 million Afghans voted in the runoff election and that over 56 percent of the tally went to Ashraf Ghani while his rival Abdullah Abdullah received approximately 44 percent. Nouristani said "the announcement of preliminary results does not mean that the leading candidate is the winner", adding that "probe into [rigging] complaints might change the outcome."

If Abdullah Abdullah [a Tajik] won the election, the Pashtun were probably going to increase the support of the Taliban because they never did accept a non-Pashtun ruler of Afghanistan in the past and it is unlikely that they will accept one now. And if Ashraf Ghani takes the lead, then the minorities are already rearming and getting ready for civil war. The director of the privately run Election Watch Organization of Afghanistan, Jandad Spinghar, said that unless the two candidates found a peaceful political solution to the disagreement, Afghanistan may witness violent protests.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said 12 July 2014 both Afghan presidential candidates had agreed to a full UN-supervised audit of last month's runoff election ballots and promised to abide by the results. Kerry said the process will take a number of weeks, and that outgoing President Hamid Karzai has agreed to postpone the presidential inauguration date to accommodate the audit. Both candidates said they agreed the winner will serve as president and immediately form a national unity government.

The United States said 14 July 2014 that whatever outcome of Afghanistan's election audit, the candidate who does not have the most votes will play a formal role in the new government. A senior US administration official would not confirm the structure of a national unity government, but told reporters that no constituency will be cut out of the governing process. The framework included the future creation of a parliamentary democracy with a prime minister as head of government and a president as head of state.

Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of the audit process on August 27, and Ghani followed suit after UN officials told him to suspend participation in the interest of fairness.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah rejected the results of a United Nations-led vote audit aimed at clarifying who won the country's June 14 runoff election. Abdullah said the audit process failed to explain an extra 1 million votes cast in the second round of elections. Abdullah insisted 08 September 2014 that he'd won, adding that talks with rival Ashraf Ghani on forming a unity government were deadlocked. His announcement dashed hopes that a new president could be inaugurated soon.



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