The election body of Afghanistan decided this week to delay the country’s presidential election for a second time — to September 28 from its original scheduled date of April 20 and first delay to July 20. The election commission reportedly cited recent amendments to election laws and “numerous problems” gripping the war-ravaged country’s voting system.
The country’s International Election Commission (IEC) initially delayed the election July 20 at the end of December over “security, operational, and technical related issues.”
“Many observers had considered both dates unrealistic given the Independent Election Commission (IEC) is still finalizing results of October’s shambolic parliamentary elections,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reports.
In a statement reportedly issued Wednesday, the IEC declared:
In order to better implement the rule of election law, ensure transparency, as well as voter registration, the presidential election, provincial council election as well as the parliamentary election of Ghazni province, will be held on September 28.
The EIC will ensure the election moves ahead as planned “provided all relevant sides, especially the government and the international community, provide the IEC with the required budget on time,” the statement added.
Afghanistan’s election body announced that the council elections for all 34 Afghan provinces are also scheduled for September 28.
This year’s elections coincide with ongoing negotiations between Kabul ally the United States and the Taliban, which still refuses to allow the Afghan government to participate despite U.S. insistence.
U.S President Donald Trump has made reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban his primary plan to end the more than 17-year-old war that has cost Americans billions of taxpayer funds monthly as well as thousands of American military and civilian deaths and injuries.
“The announcement by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) comes after speculation that the vote would be postponed to create space for US-led efforts to end the 17-year war with the Taliban,” AFP points out.
Nevertheless, Voice of America (VOA) adds, “The rescheduling of the presidential vote comes as the United States is trying to find a political settlement to its 18-year-old war with the Taliban. But it is not clear whether the dialogue has anything to do with the rescheduling of the elections.”
The Taliban has intensified attacks against civilians and Afghan troops amid the peace discussions.
In November 2018, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed that United States officials, namely the U.S. top Afghan reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad leading the Taliban talks efforts, were discussing a plan to pressure Kabul to delay the elections as America sought to convince the Taliban to agree to a peace pact.
Although President Ashraf Ghani, whose term ends in May and is seeking re-election, rejected the proposal that surfaced last November, it appears his position has evolved, expressing support for the IEC’s most recent decision to delay the vote once again. Nevertheless, there seems to be no love lost between the Ghani administration and Khalilzad.
While in the United States last week, a top Ghani administration official lambasted the Trump administration for allegedly “delegitimizing” Kabul while “elevating” the terrorist group during the ongoing Taliban peace talks.
Trump’s U.S. Department of State (DOS) — which oversees the top U.S. envoy leading the Taliban negotiations on behalf of Trump — has denied the allegations, summoning the top Afghan official Hamdullah Mohib to tell him “attacks on [U.S. Amb. Zalmay] Khalilzad are attacks on the department and only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process,” echoing some Afghan politicians.
Mohib reportedly refused the Trump administration’s demand to apologize despite U.S. officials allegedly threatening to end contracts of business with him.