And Then They Were Ten: Preliminary final list of presidential candidates out
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has purged the list of presidential hopefuls for the 2014 election from 27 candidates to 10, saying the rest had failed to meet the criteria for standing. It said they either had second nationalities or had failed to amass enough voter cards to support their candidacy. Those who have been excluded now have 20 days to lodge complaints. Already accusations have begun that the Palace meddled in the list; most of those remaining are close to President Karzai. Kate Clark and Obaid Ali report (with input by Thomas Ruttig).
The list of 27 people who registered to run have been whittled down to ten:
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister, Jamiat-e Islami main contester in the 2009 presidential elections
Abdurrab Rasul Sayaf, leader of the Dawat Party (the former mujahedin faction Ittihad-e Islami), resigned as MP for Kabul to run
Qutbuddin Helal, spokesperson of Hezb-e Islami Hekmatyar during the 1990s and, more recently, member of the Hezb-e Islami peace delegation to Kabul
Abdul Rahim Wardak, former minister of defence, resigned as security adviser to the president to run
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former minister of finance and dean of Kabul University, resigned as head of the transition coordination commission to run
Zalmai Rassul, former head of the NSC, resigned as minister of foreign affairs to run
Qayyum Karzai, brother of current president, Hamed Karzai
Gul Agha Sherzai, resigned as governor of Nangarhar province to run
Hedayat Amin Arsala, former senior minister
Sardar Mohammad Nader Naim, grandson of King Zaher Shah
The rejected candidates were:
Khadija Ghaznawi, Faruq Azam, Salman Ali Dustzada, from Hezb-e Kar o Towsia (Labour and Development Party), Nader Shah Ahmadzai, Abdul Hadi Dabir, Nur Rahman Lewal, Dr Dawar Ahmad Nadim, Besmillah Sher, Fazel Karim Najimi, former director in one of the USAID development project and advisor in the agricultural and rural development ministries, Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, brother of presidential contender Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, leader of a Kuchi Council, Del Agha Kohdamani, Sarwar Ahmadzai, US-based Afghan who ran in the 2009 presidential elections, Hamidullah Qaderi, former minister of transport and civil aviation, Daud Sultanzoy, Tolo TV presenter and former MP from Ghazni, Azizullah Ludin, former head of the IEC (in 2009), resigned as head of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption to run, Seyyed Ishaq Gailani, leader of the National Solidarity Movement, resigned as MP, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, resigned as minister of commerce to run. (See our analysis of the original candidates list here).
The IEC, whose members were appointed by the President (see AAN reporting here), gave a press conference to announce the purging of the candidates’ list. The commission head, Yusif Nuristani, told journalists they had excluded candidates who had second passports or had failed to amass 100,000 voter cards or had other problems with their registration, such as the voter cards not coming from the required 20 provinces.(1) The IEC made use of the higher hurdles for candidates put into the updated election law (our analysis here), but provided no information on the reasons for the rejection of individual candidates. Indeed, Nuristani refused to name them in the press conference, telling the journalists to check the IEC website, instead. Two failed candidates told AAN they had not been informed officially of the IEC’s decision, nor the reason for their exclusion, but had got the news from the media.
Looking through the list of those who are still in the race, most of the heavyweights remain, but with the exception of Dr Abdullah and possibly Qutbuddin Helal, they are close to the Palace. Naim, a member of the former royal family, is the only remaining candidate who is a relative newcomer and does not belong to the current political establishment. Whether this background can result in voter appeal is completely unclear, however. A couple of other weaker candidates are also still being allowed to run. (2) The IEC decision has further diminished the choice for Afghan voters, leaving mainly jihadi leaders or well-known technocrats related to the current government in the race.
Most of those who were rejected had been considered comparatively minor, including the only woman attempting to run.(3) Gailani, Ahady, Ludin and Sultanzoy, with at least some potential vote bank and known for their open criticism of the President or aspects of his policies, could have provided spice to the election campaign, however. Ahady, although a minister until recently, has strongly attacked Karzai over the past weeks, including on the necessity of convening a Consultative Loya Jirga to decide on the US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement, a core issue in the President’s policy; our analysis here).
Two of the rejected candidates, Sultanzoi and Gailani, told AAN they believed the exclusions were the work of the Palace which had massaged the list (including managing to get two pro-Palace candidates whom the IEC had eliminated, Rassul and Wardak, see media reports here, back in the clear). The aim, Sultanzoi and Gailani said, was that most of the remaining candidates could later be pressurised or persuaded to stand down in favour of one man who would get the president’s backing. They suspected the favoured candidate would be the President’s brother, Qayyum Karzai, or possibly former foreign minister Zalmai Rassul. (Ghani also belongs in this group; the three other contenders from his Ahmadzai tribe are among the eliminated candidates.) In the last election, several candidates, such as Gul Agha Sherzai, stood in order to sit down again, increasing their prestige in order, ultimately, to throw their weight behind Hamed Karzai in the hope of getting cabinet posts or governorships in return.
Both Sultanzoi and Gailani said they would be going to the commission tomorrow (23 October 2013) to lodge complaints against their exclusion. Gailani complained that the review of the voter cards and other documents had taken place in private, with no journalists, representatives of the candidates or civil society or members of the ‘international community’ present. This last point was reinforced by Nader Naderi, chair of the election watchdog, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), who said they were “struggling to get the right information from the IEC” on how they had reached their decisions. Naderi said no observers had been allowed in and no-one had been briefed on the specifics.
Sultanzoi said he had a certificate from the US embassy to prove he had revoked his American citizenship and called on all those who had also lived in exile (he named Rasul, Arsala, Naim and also Sherzai – who he said had a German wife and could have gained a second nationality) to have to demonstrate they had either lived abroad on an Afghan passport with visas to prove it or had renounced their second nationality.
The 2014 election has started with a lack of transparency, accusations of serious fraud and a further limitation of choice. It is not a promising beginning to the campaign to chose Afghanistan’s next president.
(1) According to the Afghan constitution (Art 62), presidential candidates should possess, among others, the following qualification: be a citizen of Afghanistan, Muslim and born of Afghan parents, and should not have the citizenship of another country. This requirement has been checked by a commission led by the Afghan foreign ministry, with members from the interior and justice ministries, the Supreme Court and the National Directorate of Security (read here).
(2) This includes Arsala who finished third from bottom among the 32 candidates in 2009 with 0.05 per cent of the vote.
(3) There were two women in 2009, Frozan Fana and Shahla Atta. The former, widow of assassinated minister Dr Abdul Rahman, scored best, ending on seventh place with 0.47 per cent.