Afghanistan plans October elections after 3-year delay

April 1 (UPI) — Afghanistan has set Oct. 20 as the date for legislative elections after three years of delay because of political instability.

The Independent Election Commission made the announcement Sunday.

Presidential elections were held in 2014 and one year later the legislative elections were scheduled but pushed back because of security fears, including the resurgent Taliban.

Filled will be 249 seats in the National Assembly for five-year terms as well as regional elections in in about 400 districts across Afghanistan, including several outside Kabul’s control.

“Afghan security forces have assured us they will carry out operations in insecure areas not in government control and to ensure security for people in the voter registration and voting stages of the election,” Abdul Badi Sayad, Afghanistan’s election commission chief, said during a news conference.

He said residents can apply for registration cards in mid-April before candidates formally declare.

The presidential elections are scheduled for April 2019. Ashraf Ghani, who has pushed for the legislative election, was elected on Sept. 21, 2014.

The United Nations lauded an election date.

“Setting a firm date for elections is a notably positive and important development in the work of the IEC, and will allow progress from the formal planning stages to implementation,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

“Transparent and inclusive elections are an essential component of Afghanistan demonstrating the strength of the democratic political processes taking root here. The participation of all Afghans in the electoral process, not merely the elections themselves, is critical.”

Earlier this year under Resolution 2405, the Security Council requested the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to support Afghan authorities in the organization of elections, and to strengthen the integrity, sustainability and inclusiveness of the electoral process.

“The United Nations and the broader international community remain committed to supporting an Afghan-owned elections process,” the U.N. envoy said.

Habibullah Shinwary, an official at the Elections Transparency Organization for Afghanistan, wants the elections to take place but he has his doubts.

“Our perspective is that elections must be held to give legitimacy to Parliament, which can ensure the legality of the government. This is very important,” he said in a report by Al Bawaba. “But we have deep concerns about logistics and security, raising doubt as to whether we can really hold elections.”

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