Twenty-seven candidates have registered for Afghanistan's presidential elections, which will take place on April 5, 2014. Along with the warlords who have dominated Afghanistan's political space for decades, there are also a few technocrats running in next year's ballot. As language and ethnicity play crucial roles in Afghan politics, candidates have tended to select their two vice-presidential picks from different ethnic groups in order to increase their electability. Fawzia Koofi, a famous female politician, has withdrawn from the ballot, leaving only one female presidential candidate.
October 6, 2013, was the last day of registration for the presidential nominees. The candidates were required to submit the names of their would-be-vice-presidents, 100,000 signatures of support for their nomination and $20,000. Candidates currently part of President Hamid Karzai's government have resigned from their posts. As soon a the list of the candidates became known, Afghans began to debate the candidates and their VP picks on Twitter:
#Afghanistan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah will certainly be in the #election run-off if he can't win outright.
— Naseh (@Mann_Naseh) October 6, 2013
Hafiz Hamim took note of those who had resigned from their ministerial positions with the hope of claiming the presidency.
Wahidullah Shahrani is the among the three Afghan ministers who have resigned to run for 2014 presidential elections.
— Hafiz Hamim (@HJalalzai) October 6, 2013
Candidate added on Twitter:
Afghan Minister of Mines resigned today. He will be running as a Vice President for Qayom Karzai in the coming Presidential Elections.
— Candidate (@candidatepaw) October 6, 2013
While Ekram Shinwari flagged the participation of another Karzai regime heavyweight:
Gen.Abdul Rahim Wardak former Afghan defense minister also filled his nomination papers for running in upcoming presidential elections today
— Ekram Shinwari (@EkramShinwari) October 5, 2013
The candidates’ files will be reviewed and approved by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and a final list will be announced by November 2013. Farzad Lami, an Afghan journalist and blogger, confirmed the number of candidates, tweeting:
27 candidates file nomination papers for #Afghanistan presidential elections scheduled for April 5th, 2014.
— Farzad Lami (@FarzadLameh) October 6, 2013
- Qayum Karzai: President Hamid Karzai's older brother, a former Afghan MP and presidential advisor who owns businesses in Baltimore, Maryland.
VP picks: Wahidullah Shahrani (former minister of mines from Uzbek ethnic group) and Ibrahim Qasemi (a lawmaker from the Hazara ethnic group).
- Dr. Abdullah Abdullah: a foreign former minister who was a runner-up in the 2009 presidential elections.
VP picks: Mohammad Khan, Hezb-e Islami's deputy leader and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, an MP, lawmaker and one of the recognized leaders of the Hazara ethnic group.
- Abdul Rasul Sayyaf: Accused of war crimes himself, Abdul Rasul Sayyaaf has fought to enact a law granting amnesty to people accused of war crimes. He is also known as the man who brought Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan.
VP picks: Mohammad Ismail Khan, a former water and energy minister and Abdul Wahab Irfan, an Afghan senator.
- Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai: President Hamid Karzai's top advisor, who placed fourth in the 2009 presidential election and is well-known among Westerners, especially in Washington. Ghani also consults for the World Bank.
VP picks: General Abdul Rashid Dostum (popular among ethnic Uzbeks) and Sarwar Danish, a former justice minister (supported by former ethnic Hazara warlord and vice president, Karim Khalili,).
- Zalmai Rassoul: Former foreign minister, popular in the West and supported by President Karzai.
Vice presidents: Ahmad Zia Massoud, brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud (ethnically Tajik) and Habiba Sarabi, Bamiyan's provincial governor (ethnically Hazara).
Razaq Mamoon, an Afghan journalist and blogger, blogged [Dari] about Dr. Abdullah's incorrect choice of vice presidents.
ائتلاف جمیعت اسلامی با بخش انشعابی حزب اسلامی، و یک بخش حزب وحدت اسلامی ( به رهبری آقای محقق) یک ائتلاف فوق العادهکم توان است وچانس پیروزی شان نیز کمتراز بیست وپنج درصد خواهد بود
Coalition of Hezb-e Islami and Hezb-e Wahdat (partially led by Mr. Muhaqiq) is an extremely weak alliance and its chance of winning might be less than 25%.
As Afghanistan's politics has long been associated with corruption and civil war, its politicians are commonly viewed as being either corrupt, war criminals or both. Samira Hamidi, disappointed with the lack of choices for 2014, posted on Twitter:
With the Presidential Candidates and all mixed faces of democrats and extremists, whom to trust and vote?? http://t.co/dhVrR3eYun
— Samira Hamidi (@HuriaSamira) October 5, 2013
Will the winner be an alleged war criminal?
Much netizen attention was focused on Abdul Rasul Sayyaf's controversial candidacy. Sayyaf, who has been blamed for the death of thousands and credited with training insurgents, may have trouble garnering sufficient support to win the vote, but will be able to fall back on his own constituency of hardcore conservatives.
Farzad Lami tweeted of Sayyaf's candidacy:
The person who invited Osama to #Afghanistan is now running for president – http://t.co/cTIkFFJMhF
— Farzad Lami (@FarzadLameh) October 4, 2013
A blogger, Shami Witness’ ironic tweet reads:
Some more hilarity in #Afghanistan. Abdur Rasul Sayyaf going to run for the presidential elections.
— Shami Witness (@ShamiWitness) October 5, 2013
Samira Hamidi echoed the ridicule:
What a joke! Sayyaf as a next #AFG President? We don't need Taliban, he is enough for making women's life miserable. http://t.co/WytqfC1J6C
— Samira Hamidi (@HuriaSamira) August 15, 2013
Subel Bhandari, a journalist covering Afghanistan and Pakistan, highlighted the fact that with candidates like Dr. Abdullah, who has the backing of highly-placed officials in the Karzai regime (Marshal Fahim and Ismael Khan), it will be difficult for Sayyaf to achieve victory:
Momentum grows for Dr Abdullah. Marshal Fahim & Ismael Khan to support him for presidency http://t.co/yedDXJqJp1 Puts Sayyaf out of picture.
— Subel (@svbel) September 28, 2013
NilofarMassoud, complaining about the process of candidate registration, tweeted:
What a crazy day in #Afghanistan with the presidential candidates registration for the #elections
— NilofarMassoud (@NilofarMassoud) October 6, 2013
Sayed Salahuddin, referring to the ethnic balancing tactic, tweeted:
afghan elections: sayaaf apparently wants to nominate for presidential bid & has picked up ismail khan & an uzbek as his two deputies
— sayed salahuddin (@sayedsalahuddin) October 2, 2013
Massoud Hossaini tweeted about the only woman candidate running in the presidential race:
Mrs. Khadija Azizi registered her name as the first #Afghanistan female presidential #elections candidate. 24 persons registered till now.
— Massoud Hossaini (@Massoud151) October 6, 2013
Fawzia Koofi, who was planning to run for presidency, changed her mind. In one of her tweets she stated:
and finally my team and I decided not to run in upcoming election due to many reasons,one the hectic political situation we prepare for 2018
— Fawzia Koofi (@FawziaKoofi77) October 6, 2013
Also expressing her concern regarding the decline of female presence in the presidential elections, she tweeted:
Glad some candidates included women in their tickets, but still decline of women presence as comparing to 2009 elections.
— Fawzia Koofi (@FawziaKoofi77) October 6, 2013
International correspondent, Lucy Kafanov was concerned about the possibility of delays to the vote, tweeting:
Nominations for #Afghanistan‘s presidential elections close today, though it's still a question whether vote will take place as planned — Lucy Kafanov (@LucyKafanov) October 6, 2013
Finally, disappointed by the lack of improvements in the country after the last presidential vote, Sayed Salahuddin tweeted:
afghan man says no enthusiasm to vote in coming presidential poll as “no voters expectations” were addressed in past elections
— sayed salahuddin (@sayedsalahuddin) October 9, 2013
Thanks for the excellent information :)
Opium accounts for 50% of the Afghanistan economy, yet is rarely mentioned as a huge special interest. During the Presidential campaign, will anyone address this “elephant in the room?”
That is a complex issue, I guess no one is going to talk about it for now.
What is complex to figure out. Opium production is against Muslim and all international secure law. It is the root of the Afghan inability to evolve from a corrupt, lawless culture. There is much evidence to suggest that ALL of Afghan is complicit in supporting or directly benefitting from this death business. Only the Afghan people can erase the SHAME of their culture.
First of all it is not our culture. Second, obviously some individuals from governmental institutions are involved with this business. In addition, the government of Afghanistan is not the only party involved in this issue, regional states play their role as well.
Opium production constitutes 50% of Afghan GDP. 50%!!!! Let me repeat that 50%. You are like a drug addict blaming others for the problem that only he can control. Get over it and rescue your nation from shameful dysfunction. Accepting responsibility is the first step in taking charge of one’s life.