President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday reiterated that Afghanistan’s next presidential elections will be held as scheduled on July 20 as he addressed a ceremony in Nimroz province.
A day earlier, Ghani reacted to reports on plans for an interim government in the country as part of peace efforts.
“Elections is the demand of the people of Afghanistan and it is a constitutional need,” Ghani said. “The presidential elections will be held on time. My order to all government institutions is to prevent any kind of interference,” said Ghani.
As part of government’s efforts to ensure transparent polls, an official said, the assessment of documents of 84 candidates for election commissions are ongoing. The candidates are representing political parties and civil society institutions.
“Presidential candidates will vote for 14 nominees,” said Mohammad Hedayat, media advisor to Second Vice President Sarwar Danish. “Seven candidates will be picked for membership in the independent election commission, five others for electoral complaints commission and two candidates to lead secretariats of the two commissions.”
The political parties and civil society institutions have been constantly saying that effective and professional candidates should be picked by government to lead the election commissions.
Based on the amendment in elections law, the presidential elections candidates will pick the new members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC). However, no institution will have the opportunity to monitor the selection process of new IEC and IECC members.
“We hope that honest people are nominated to lead the election commissions. They should be professional and capable of standing against the strongmen,” said Humayun Jarir, member of Hizb-e-Islami.
“The law has clarified the nature of the voting. In our perception, it should be carried out based on a procedure. Those who appear as candidates should be provided the opportunity to talk about their programs and inform the people about their ideas. The mechanism for voting should be clarified, all candidates must be present. Election observers organizations should be allowed to monitor,” said Mohammad Yusuf Rasheed, CEO of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA).
According to government, 69 candidates, including nine women, are from political parties while 15 candidates, including five women, have been introduced by civil society organizations.
This comes after all commissioners from the two electoral commissions were dismissed from their posts, including the two chiefs, after President Ashraf Ghani signed off on an amendment to the electoral law on February 12.
Discussions and consultations over the draft amendment started earlier this month and the draft was unanimously endorsed by all groups – before being approved by Ghani’s cabinet.
According to the Presidential Palace, the two secretariat heads, Ahmad Shah Zamanzai from the IEC, and Mohammad Setigh, from the IECC secretariat, will run the commissions.
The election law has 109 articles and 17 chapters and according to sources, a number of these articles have been amended.
The commissioners – 12 in total - were appointed to the posts in November 2016 as part of government’s efforts to ensure transparent and fair parliamentary elections.
However, the elections – held in October – were allegedly riddled with fraud and mismanagement.