All you need to know about upcoming presidential election

Afghans will head to the voting centers on Saturday, September 28th, to select their next president, however the insurgents have threatened the people not to attend the process.

Meanwhile Saturday’s presidential election is coincided with 23rd anniversary of the then mujahideen government’s collapse and gaining of Kabul city by the Taliban.

The upcoming presidential election, the fourth since the Taliban’s removal from power by a US-led coalition in 2001, comes as heavy fighting between the armed group and government forces has led to a spike in the number of civilians killed.

The Taliban has already threatened to target election rallies and polling stations, while in recent weeks the Afghan forces have stepped up air and ground attacks and have regained lost districts after many years.

Who are the presidential hopefuls?

Sixteen candidates are running in Saturday’s election, seeking to secure a five-year term.

The president is both the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Afghan armed forces. The president also appoints the cabinet, which is approved by the lower house of parliament.

The National Assembly consists of Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), the 249-seat lower house, and Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), the 102-seat upper house.

Wolesi Jirga, the most powerful of the houses, is responsible for passing and amending legislation. Meshrano Jirga has an advisory role.

A presidential candidate must secure 50 percent of the vote to win outright. If, as expected, that threshold is not crossed, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders – most likely on November 23.

Listed below are the candidates.

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani: The incumbent president is seeking a second term, running under the slogan of “Dawlat Saaz” or State Builder.

The presidential hopeful has picked Amrullah Saleh, a former spy chief as one of his two running mates. The other one is incumbent second vice president Mohammad Sarwar Danish.

Abdullah Abdullah: Afghanistan’s incumbent chief executive, a post created after the 2014 presidential election. His campaign motto is Stability and Integration.

Abdullah’s first running mate is Enayatullah Babur Farahmand. His second running mate is Asadullah Sadati.

Ahmad Wali Massoud: The younger brother of former commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Wali Massoud has served as the Afghan ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Massoud has chosen Farida Momand, who was a higher education minister, and Latif Nazari, as his running mates. 

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: A former commander, Hekmatyar registered his candidacy with Fazl ul-Hadi Wazi and Hafiz ul-Rahman Naqi – members of his political party Hezb-i-Islami – as his running mates.

In 2016, Hekmatyar was pardoned by the Afghan government as part of a peace deal with Hezb-i-Islami. He returned to Kabul in May 2017 after spending two decades in hiding.

Abdul Latif Pedram: Pedram was a member of parliament who campaigned for women’s rights and federalism. He is the leader of the National Congress Party of Afghanistan. His running mates are Ehsanullah Haidari, and Mohammed Sadeq Wardak.

Rahmatullah Nabil: Former Chief for the National Directorate of Security. His running mates are Murad Ali Murad, former deputy interior minister, and Massouda Jalal, former minister of women’s affairs.

The other candidates are: Nur-ul-Haq Ulumi, Nurullah Jalili, Shaida Abdali, Faramarz Tamana, Mohammad Shahab Hakimi, Hakim Tursan, Mohammad Ibrahim Alekozai, Ghulam Faruq Nejrabi, Nur Rahman Liwal, Enayatullah Hafiz.

Meanwhile Ulumi, Abdali and Alekozai have announced their support of incumbent president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and has left the process.

Who can vote?

In May, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced a new electoral calendar and started a 22-day voter registration process. During that period, voters could register for the first time, as well as correct or update their information.

According to the IEC, some 9.5 million people aged 18 and older have registered to vote.

Authorities plan to use a sophisticated biometric voter-identification system that includes fingerprint, eye and facial recognition on the voting day.

Security of the polls:

The IEC announced earlier this month that the delivery of election materials to polling centers in the country’s 33 provinces had been completed.

It was previously estimated that 7,385 polling stations would be open on election day, but the figure was later lowered to 5,373 due to security concerns. 

Of those, some 400 to 500 centres are either in areas controlled by the Taliban or under high threat, according to the IEC.

The Ministry of Interior announced earlier this month that over 72,000 security personnel would be deployed to provide security to 49,402 polling booths across the country.

“There are also about 20,000 to 30,000 members of reserve forces. Sensitive and non-sensitive election materials have been dispatched to the provinces,” ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told media. “So we want to assure the people, the commission, and the candidates that security will be provided during the election.”

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