Afghan election workers must prepare for September poll: US

Kabul (AFP) –


Election officials in Afghanistan should do more to ensure delayed presidential polls can take place in September, the US embassy in Kabul said Thursday.

The election was initially slated for April 20, but as the date drew close it grew obvious that overwhelmed poll officials were unprepared -- owing to them still tallying results from a nationwide parliamentary ballot in October.

Amid the push to finalise those results, officials first delayed the presidential election until July 20, and then again to September 28. Final results were only announced this week.

In a statement, the US embassy urged the Independent Election Commission and Afghan authorities "do their part to take the decisions and actions necessary to give the Afghan people their voice at the ballot box this year."

Among its recommendations, the embassy said the election commission should present a clear plan and budget request, as well as hire and train sufficient staff to complete voter registration and preparations.

"The Afghan people deserve the opportunity to choose their next leadership through transparent elections in September," the statement read.

"We are prepared to continue supporting this process."

The embassy statement comes after Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, met with Afghan leaders in Kabul this week, when she stressed the importance of holding the September election.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's term technically expires May 22, and his opponents have said his administration should make way for a caretaker government until presidential elections can be held.

The supreme court however has said he can remain in power until the next election.

The delayed elections come as the United States tries to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, and some had speculated the polls were being deliberately stalled to create more space for those talks.

Negotiations however appear to be making slow progress, with the two sides at loggerheads over several key issues.