Registration wrapped up on October 6 for both the Afghanistan presidential and provincial council elections. Twenty-seven candidates have registered for the presidential race, and 2,327 candidates registered to run for the provincial council, including 240 women. Every one of the country’s 34 provinces has one or more women candidates running in that election.
Of the presidential candidates, one is a woman, Khadija Ghaznawi. Each presidential candidate is running with two vice presidents, at least seven of whom are women. Most of the presidential candidates discussed peace talks and good governance as the focus of their platforms, but policy priorities will become clearer when campaigning officially begins on February 2.
Included in the slate of contenders is Abdullah Abdullah, former Afghanistan Foreign Minister from 2001 until 2005, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former Finance Minister from 2002 until 2004. Qayum Karzai, the brother of current president Hamid Karzai, is also running. President Karzai, who has run the country since the 2001 invasion that ousted the Taliban, is not entitled to run for a third term.
Also registered to run for president is Gul Agha Sherzai, a former warlord and provincial governor, who, NPR reports, is accused of drug trafficking and pedophilia. Adbul Rabb Rasul Sayyaf, credited with bringing Al-Qaeda to Afghanistan, has also registered. Sayyaf has long been suspected of human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch reported in 2003 that Sayyaf was known for his sometimes violent political intimidation tactics. The report noted that many Afghan women in the southeast, where Sayyaf is based, believe that Sayyaf opposes women’s rights and supports further restrictions on Afghan women.
The Afghanistan Independent Electoral Commission will vet the candidates before final approval in November.
The April 5 election is the first independent election organized by Afghanistan. Jan Kubis, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, announced last week that the UN has pledged financial and technical support, including security and international observers.