Candidates Present Platforms on First Campaign Day
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News - Election 2014

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Presidential campaigns officially kicked off on Sunday, ushering in the final stage ahead of the historic elections set for April. The candidates rolled out their platforms on the first day after much has been said in the media about the need for the contenders to focus on substantive policy issues and not rely on divisive ethnic politics for support.

What was made clear from the initial presentations made by each candidate, however, was that there is an immense similarity of views amongst them when it comes to many national issues, including security, law enforcement, human rights, women's rights, economic development, corruption and the empowerment of youth.

Although there still remains plenty of time in the campaign season with it ending on April 2, the candidates have so far kept their platforms light in details and heavy in broad-sweeping, vague promises.

According to Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the following could be promised under his administration:

1. Good governance
2. War on corruption
3. Formation of a government based on justice
4. War against all cases of violence in society
5. Participation of women and the youth in the next government
6. Focus on infrastructural and economic development
For Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, there were the following highlights:
1. Efforts for boosting up economic development and fighting poverty
2. Protection of human rights, particularly women's rights
3. Implementation of reforms
4. Focus on equipment and training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)
5. Establishment of frank relations with neighbors
6. Establishment of youth affairs ministry
Presidential candidate Gul Agha Sherzai also enlisted his priorities and assurances:
1. Maintaining national unification among all ethnic groups
2. Maintaining nationwide security
3. Strengthening the rehabilitation and modernization of Afghanistan
4. Defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity
5. Endorsing and acting upon the prevailing laws of Afghanistan and the Constitution
6. Supporting freedom of expression

Presidential candidate Dawoud Sultanzoi pledged:
1. Respect for freedom of the press
2. Rule of law
3. Security
4. Employment opportunities for the youth
5. Fight against poverty
6. Frank relations with the world and neighbors
For Presidential candidate Hedayat Amin Arsala, the following were discussed:
1. Establishment of justice
2. Fight against corruption
3. Respect to human rights, particularly women's rights
4. Integrating women and youth into the system
5. Fighting the ongoing violence in the country
6. Respect to freedom of the press
Meanwhile, Presidential candidate Sardar Mohammad Nadir Naeem focused on the following topics:
1. Security and stability
2. National unity
3. Human rights and women's rights
4. Rule of law
5. Implementation of justice
6. Freedom of the press

The presidential candidates seemed very enthusiastic while explaining their future programs and strategies. However, they have received criticisms from civil society activists and MPs for the lack of substance to their platforms as they appear now.

"The problem is that we don't have good and inclusive political parties," Afghan Civil Society Forum Director Aziz Rafee said. "Because of this, the slogans are not so effective. And most of them are unrealistic."

As the campaigns roll on and the election day nears, it is likely more will come to differentiate the candidates from one another. But only time will tell whether or not it will be their platforms or something else that comes to define them.

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