KABUL: (MEP) – In the recent the Independent Election Commission announced that it had ruled out 16 candidates, leaving 10 — including all the major contenders — remaining in the campaign for the presidency in April. “They either didn’t meet the conditions set for citizenship, or their supporter list didn’t meet our conditions or there were problems in their documents,” said the head of the commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, New York Times reported.
Most of the excluded candidates were second-tier power players, like the former commerce minister, who in all likelihood stood little chance of winning. Still, at least a few had recently resigned from their governmental posts for the express purpose of running.
As for the more well-known challengers, all supposedly met the criteria — despite last-minute whispers that the perceived front-runner, former Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul, would be knocked from the roster. It is unclear exactly how these candidates met the criteria for running while the others did not, and the Independent Election Commission did not elaborate.
The presidential election has become a central focus for the international community, which is placing a great deal of pressure on Afghanistan’s government to stick to the April timeline. While few expect the process to be perfect, electing a new president to replace the two-term Hamid Karzai has become a crucial benchmark of progress. It is also seen as a foundation for a future Afghanistan as the Western presence begins to fade.
As such, international scrutiny of the electoral process, and especially the election commission, is likely to remain close. Several members of the commission have ties to the presidential palace and Mr. Karzai, initially prompting concerns about its neutrality.
Although some Afghan officials still consider Mr. Rassoul to be Mr. Karzai’s preferred candidate to succeed him that assessment is increasingly coming into question amid rumors that the relationship has been souring. Otherwise, none of the remaining candidates have emerged as clear front-runners.
For now, the candidates have one more official hurdle to cross before they are formally placed on the ballot: the Elections Complaints Commission. That body is tasked with reviewing any evidence submitted against the presidential hopefuls that could disqualify them; including human rights abuses or war crimes.
Still, the complaints commission is unlikely to produce the sort of culling that Tuesday provided. While more than a few of the candidates have questionable records from the past 30 years of war and political maneuvering, none have ever been convicted on such serious charges.