In response to reports that Washington was pushing Afghanistan to postpone presidential elections next year, officials from some of Afghanistan’s influential political parties on Thursday reiterated calls for elections to be held on time.
Among those opposed to the idea was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, who said the elections need to be held on time and that he was opposed to the idea of establishing an interim government.
In addition, other poltical parties such as Jamiat-e-Islami Party of Afghanistan and National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan also voiced their opposition to a delay. But some close aides to former president Hamid Karzai have said that the country needs to prioritize the peace process.
This comes after The Wall Street Journal on Monday morning reported that the US was pushing for the Afghan government to postpone next year’s elections – a move that could be linked to Khalilzad’s apparent six month deadline to broker peace with the Taliban.
However, the Afghan government immediately rejected the allegations and President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman was quick to say that government was committed to holding presidential elections as per the Afghan constitution and the date determined by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
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.”
Hekmatyar said on Thursday however that government has to take into consideration requests by political parties.
“If government does not respect the logical and legitimate demands of political parties and tries to conduct the elections in the same way as the parliamentary elections, based on fraud, or conduct it with the same old method, then we would not have another option except to press for the establishment of an interim government,” said Hekmatyar.
Noor Rahman Akhlaqi, a member of Jamiat-e-Islami meanwhile said reports of any delay are simply rumors.
“Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan has not made any kind of agreement with anyone to delay the elections and the rumors about the issue is just propaganda,” he said.
“We do not support the idea of a delay in presidential elections, [but if delayed, it must be] on condition that the war ends and peace is achieved,” said Abdullah Qarloq, deputy head of National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan.
But Karzai’s close aides have said the current situation does not lend itself to presidential elections.
“Parliamentary elections were different, but the presidential elections are held at a time that peace has not come to the country, this means that the Taliban will remain away from the scene,” said Karzai’s close aide Abdul Karim Khurram.
But the Afghan government and the US have rejected claims about any delay in elections.
The US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said Wednesday that Washington is committed to the election process and any decision to move out the date would be at Kabul’s discretion.
Nauert said: “One of the things that is important to us is we’re committed to the overall electoral process. If there were to be any changes made to the scheduling, that would entirely be a decision on the part of Afghanistan, one in which we would not interfere."
In a meeting with the US ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass on Tuesday night, the CEO Abdullah Abdullah discussed some of these issues with him. However, after the meeting Abdullah tweeted that the scheduled elections would go ahead as planned.
Bass in turn responded and said: “We remain committed to helping the electoral commissions and the Afghan government prepare for presidential elections in April 2019. Timing of Afghan elections is for Afghans to decide.”