A resident stands under an Afghan flag flying on a hill top in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

Afghan Agency Mulls Delaying Next Year’s President Poll

(Bloomberg) -- Afghanistan’s election agency is discussing options to postpone next year’s presidential polls by about three months to fix short comings faced in October’s parliamentary vote.

“The three-month delay will give enough time to address the shortages and challenges we faced in the parliamentary elections -- such as logistical and security issues,” Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a spokesman at the election commission in Kabul, said by phone. The election body will “soon” announce the exact date of the elections, he said.

Four elections are scheduled for April 20. Those include presidential, district and provincial council ballots, as well as parliamentary elections in Ghazni province that were postponed in October due to poor security. The commission is also considering just pushing back the council and possibly the parliamentary polls to July 13, Ibrahimi said.

The credibility of the presidential poll is a key concern as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani seeks a second term. Afghan elections have been tainted by violence, ballot-stuffing and delays since the Taliban were ousted by the U.S. invasion in 2001. Ghani first came to power amid opposition allegations of rigging and was pushed into a U.S.-brokered power-sharing agreement with his rival Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

Fraud Complaints

A discredited poll could spill over into a fresh crisis at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to negotiate an accord with the Taliban -- with Afghan forces and the 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in the country unable to bring an end to the violence.

More than a month after the parliamentary vote, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan has only released initial results from 10 out of 33 provinces in a country that is half controlled or contested by the Taliban. The final results will be announced after addressing thousands of fraud and misconduct complaints.

Washington and Kabul are pushing for peace deal with the Taliban before the presidential vote. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, has held a series of talks with Taliban in Doha in recent months, but has failed to reach any agreement. The group has continually reiterated that the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO soldiers from the Afghanistan is a top condition before any talks can happen directly with Ghani’s administration.

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