Afghanistan election date set

Senior election official Zakim Shah appeared on state television to announce the date of the polls, which will be held ahead of the United States’ November presidential election.

Afghanistan’s elections have already been delayed twice due to rising violence across the country, have been originally set for June in a peace accord struck after the Taliban was toppled, however this was later pushed back to September by US-backed President Hamid Karzai for security reasons.

However the trickier issue of parliamentary polls has been put on ice, as they require greater coordination and questions over the balance of power between central government and regional military leaders.

Afghanistan’s Joint Electoral Management Body said while the government wants parliamentary elections to be held within a month of the presidential contest, organisers are not satisfied this could be achieved.

Mr Shah said the electoral commission determines the “minimum requirements” for holding parliamentary elections ahead of October 15 are not possible to meet, adding that trying to push through polls before the end of the year would not be fair to candidates.

“Holding parliamentary elections next spring will allow voter registration to continue so as to ensure even broader popular participation in the parliamentary election,” said Mr Shah.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has welcomed the new voting schedule, saying it offers vital breathing space for disarmament.

“This additional time will enable voters and candidates to participate more meaningfully in the election of their representatives in the National Assembly and in local councils,” said a spokesman for Mr Annan in a statement.

“It is also a very valuable opportunity to create better conditions for the holding of a free and fair parliamentary election, which the government and the international community should not miss,” the statement said.

The voter registration campaign, threatened by remnants of the Taliban, has been hampered by a string of attacks.

On Thursday, a female voter registration worker was killed in a bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan in an assault claimed by remnants of the regime.

This comes after a bomb attack killed three women working on voter registration late last month.

And two Britons and their Afghan translator who were working for a private security contractor for the polls were killed in early May in eastern Nuristan province.

Mr Karzai appears to be the frontrunner for the presidential elections, for which nominations will begin on Saturday.

Around 6.5 million people have so far registered to vote in the polls, the first democratic elections in Afghanistan and the first elections to be held since the Taliban was toppled in 2002.

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