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Presidential election to be held as early as May

Latest update : 2009-02-28

Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on Saturday that a presidential election will be held by May, in line with the national constitution. This puts him at odds with the US, which backs a date in August, giving its troops time to touch base.

REUTERS - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday the presidential election should be held by May, putting him on a collision course with the election commission which set Aug. 20 for polls, a date backed by the United States.

 

The United States and the international community backed the earlier decision to hold the elections in August in the hope that security would improve by then and time could be given to organising a smooth and fair election.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 more troops to the south of Afghanistan in the coming months to try to secure the elections in August against the Taliban insurgent threat.

 

Bringing the polls forward would not give the U.S. troops time to even arrive in the country.

 

But Karzai's office said that after consultations with political and religious leaders, legal experts and officials, the president said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) should organise elections according to the constitution.

 

According to the constitution, the president's term ends on May 21 and new polls to elect his successor must be held between 30 and 60 days before that.

 

Opposition leaders had said Karzai's position would be illegitimate if he remained in office beyond May 21.

 

But the IEC has already set Aug. 20 as the date for the presidential election, saying the polls could not take place in the spring as that would mean they would have to be organised during the harsh Afghan winter when many areas are inaccessible.

 

Many people in those outlying districts would thus be disenfranchised, the IEC says.

 

The IEC also cited to a contradiction between the constitution and the electoral law which states the presidential term is five years, meaning that Karzai should stay in power until either October, five years after he won the last election, or December, five years after he took the oath of office.

 

In the last three years the Taliban have made a strong comeback, extending the scale and scope of their insurgency across the south and east and up to the fringes of the Afghan capital.

 

U.S. officials admit they are not winning the conflict but, they say, neither are the Taliban. A stalemate has been reached with insurgents unable to overcome NATO's military might and foreign troops unable to stop Taliban roadside and suicide bombs.

Date created : 2009-02-28

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