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Asia-pacific

Candidates: The heavyweights

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2009-08-16

Leading war-torn, insurgency-hit Afghanistan is no easy task. But with 41 candidates contesting the presidential election, there is no dearth of people willing to take on the challenge. FRANCE 24 has taken a look at some of the major players.

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI – THE INCUMBENT

 

Which tribe?
Popalzai clan – Pashtun

 

Which language?
Pashto, Dari, English

 

Where were you during the 1980s Soviet occupation and the subsequent 1990s mujahideen wars?
Moved to Pakistan and joined the anti-Soviet resistance. Served as deputy foreign minister in the mujahideen government of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

 

Official campaign website:
http://www.hamidkarzai.af/campaign09/

 

On Facebook


The odds:
Deeply unpopular, yet likely to win. His ineffectual track-record on corruption and security -- combined with his penchant for co-opting potential rivals and cutting deals with unsavory warlords -- have made him so unpopular that his rivals hope he will not win an outright majority in the August 20 poll, forcing a runoff vote.

 

The US paradox:
Viewed as a US puppet. But Washington has openly and publicly turned against him in recent months.

 

Strengths:
As an incumbent, commands the resources of the Afghan state, including the army and the police, along with the billions of international aid dollars that flow into the treasury. Has succeeded in transitioning a war-ravaged country functioning on medieval codes of conduct into a more or less democratic one.

 

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH – MASOOD’S MAN

 

Which tribe?
Tajik-Pashtun (his father is Pashtun, mother Tajik)

 

Which language?
Dari, Pashto, French, English, Arabic

 

During the Soviet invasion and subsequent mujahideen wars:
A medical doctor by training, he practised ophthalmology in Kabul and the refugee camps of Peshawar, Pakistan, in the early years of the Soviet invasion before joining the resistance under Afghan resistance hero, Ahmed Shah Masood. Held senior positions in Masood’s Tajik resistance during the mujahideen and Taliban eras, notably assuming the role of  Afghan foreign minister in exile.

 

Official campaign site:
http://www.drabdullah.af/

 

The odds:
Strongest credential remains his ties to Masood, who is still a revered figure. Political experience includes a stint as Afghanistan’s foreign minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was sacked by President Karzai. Considered a credible presidential candidate.

 

International profile
Suave, fluent in French and English and internationally well-regarded.

 

ASHRAF GHANI – THE ACADEMIC

 

Which tribe?
Ahmadzai clan – Pashtun

 

Which language?
Dari, Pashto, English

 

During the Soviet invasion and subsequent mujahideen wars:
Was at Columbia University, New York, when Soviet troops stormed Afghanistan. Held academic posts at US universities followed by an11-year-stint as lead anthropologist at the World Bank during Soviet occupation and subsequent mujahideen wars.

 

Official campaign site:
http://ashrafghani.af/campaign/

 

Groups on Facebook


The odds:

The intellectual heavyweight on the candidate list, Ghani’s track-record is impeccable, some would say too impeccable, for the Afghan electorate. His formidable CV includes working as assistant to the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan, being an advisor to Karzai, Afghan finance minister and chancellor of Kabul University. Subsequently founded the policy institute, Institute for State Effectiveness, where he serves as chairman. But his strength as a respected technocrat is overshadowed by weak popular support.

 

International profile:
Highly respected in international diplomatic and policy circles. Ghani’s recruitment of James Carville -- Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist also known as the “ragin’ Cajun” -- raised eyebrows in Afghan circles. Some say it’s symptomatic of his disconnect from Afghan politics.

 

RAMAZAN BASHARDOST – THE OUTSIDER RISES

 

Which tribe?
Hazara

 

Languages:
Dari, French, some Pashto, some English

 

During the Soviet invasion and subsequent mujahideen wars:
Immigrated to Iran, moved to Pakistan and later moved to France, where he lived for more than 20 years.

 

Official Web site:
http://www.bashardost.org/English.htm

 

Groups on Facebook

 

The odds:
He does not own a home, his campaign headquarters is a dusty tent, he hails from the marginalised Hazara community. Bashardost is turning out to be a rising star on the 2009 campaign trail. Some of his many Facebook fans across the world call him “Afghanistan’s Obama”. Bashardost is also popular among the non-wired set due to his modest lifestyle. His first brush with national fame came when he resigned as Afghanistan’s planning minister in 2005 after publicly criticising international NGOs. His anti-corruption platform is popular among ordinary Afghans exasperated with their leaders. Bashardost is currently an MP from Kabul province.

 

Date created : 2009-07-22

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