Afghanistan electoral commission opens registration for presidential elections

Afghanistan’s election commission will open an 11 day registration period today for candidates in April’s presidential election. Incumbent Ashraf Ghani

Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

Afghanistan’s election commission will open an 11 day registration period today for candidates in April’s presidential election.

Incumbent Ashraf Ghani is set to seek a second term, but will likely face a strong challenge to reelection. The contenders will reveal themselves in the coming days, with former national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar chief among them.

Atmar resigned from Ghani’s administration in August after the president declined to participate in Russian-hosted peace talks with the Taliban. So far, negotiations have failed to make significant progress towards the ending the conflict, with the Taliban controlling or contesting almost 45% of territory—the most since they were ousted in 2001. Atmar may argue he’d bring a fresh momentum for peace, as well as open up new avenues for contact like the Russian-sponsored forum.

However, after low turnout and violence marred October’s parliamentary elections, a poorly run vote in April could weaken the government’s position. So could a declining US commitment, with President Donald Trump having announced a withdrawal of 7000 troops—half of Washington’s forces there. Whoever emerges the victor will likely have a weaker hand in dealing with the Taliban.

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