Global Policy Forum

Afghan Elections Put Back to September


By James Astill

March 29, 2004

Afghanistan's elections were postponed to September yesterday, owing to insecurity and the UN's slow pace in registering voters. The postponement comes despite Washington's insistence to President Hamid Karzai that the vote be in June. Commentators say George Bush wanted to present Afghanistan as a foreign policy success in good time for the US elections in November. More than halfway through the six months allotted for voter registration, the UN has garnered barely 10% of the 10.5 million estimated to be eligible.

Its efforts have been hit by violence that has left southern Afghanistan practically off-limits to its staff. Last week more than 100 were killed in factional fighting in Herat - previously considered the safest place in the country.

"The UN says the later the election is held, the safer it is likely to be," an Afghan government spokesman said to explain the postponement. Mr Karzai said September would allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously. With still no electoral law, to delimit constituencies, and still no registered parties, UN staff are sceptical that a parliamentary election can be held this year. A senior UN official in Kabul said September was the cut-off point, because after that most of the country was cut off by snow, and September did not appear possible.

Taliban forces, resurgent in the south, have threatened to disrupt the elections. A statement on Saturday said the postponement was an embarrassment for the US, and reiterated the Taliban view that elections were intended to distract Afghans from their responsibility to fight a holy war against Mr Karzai.

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