The Afghan government is fully committed to holding the 2019 presidential elections as per the Afghan constitution and the date determined by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a presidential spokesman tweeted on Tuesday.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, tweeted that “Continuity in a democratic process is a must and any other proposal than the will of Afghans which is outlined in our constitution is simply not acceptable.”
Fazel Fazly, a presidential adviser, also said the Afghan government’s commitments to holding the 2019 presidential vote is unwavering, as dictated by the country’s constitution. “We will stick to the election date announced by the IEC and follow the timeline once determined.”
This comes after a report Tuesday morning in the Wall Street Journal which stated the United States is considering pushing the Afghan government to postpone the April 2019 presidential election while it tries to reach a peace deal with the Taliban to end the 17-year war
The Wall Street Journal reported that the possibility of such a step, one of several options being considered by US officials, is a sign of the urgency the administration sees in trying to broker a political breakthrough in the conflict.
Sources state a suspension of the April election, an idea reportedly raised by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, in talks with various stakeholders and intermediaries, would be a contentious move after the US has long promoted democracy in Afghanistan, the WSJ reported.
According to the report, Khalilzad’s office declined to comment on his efforts.
Afghanistan’s presidential election is scheduled to be held on April 20 but as yet the electoral schedule has not been announced.
Trump has questioned America’s role in Afghanistan, while reluctantly embracing a new strategy last year that increased US troop levels in the country to 15,000. Khalilzad has, according to the report, told colleagues that he probably has six to 12 months to produce a breakthrough for the president.
The WSJ quoted Robin Raphel, a former US diplomat for South Asia, as saying Khalilzad is a “man in a hurry.”
The report stated that the idea of a postponement has received a frosty reception in Kabul and many Afghan officials have expressed opposition to any suspension, but the plan has quiet backing from some in President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
One senior Afghan political figure told the WSJ he wouldn’t be opposed to calling off the ballot if there was a chance of a deal.
“For a peace settlement, you have to be flexible,” the political figure said. “The (presidential) election is not bigger than peace.”
The report stated that another alternative being discussed would allow the election to go forward with the understanding that the new government would serve on an interim basis while the warring parties try to create a governing coalition that would include the Taliban, according to a Western diplomat.
“There is no easy scenario,” the diplomat said.
A third approach, reported the WSJ, was that of a special assembly of Afghanistan leaders that would choose a new interim government to run the country while the warring parties work on a plan to end the war.
Afghan power brokers, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, have been pressing for such an assembly, known as a Loya Jirga.
The Wall Street Journal stated that while Khalilzad is exploring the option of suspending the election, other US officials are working with Ghani to get ready for the vote in April.
“Our focus is on the presidential election, and we’re getting prepared for them,” said a senior US official involved in Afghanistan affairs.