The Last Minute Frenzy of Afghanistan’s Candidate Registration
The registration for Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election continued until the very late hours of 6 October 2013. Although it was to be expected that the political horse-trading and deal-making would continue until the last minute, the scramble that finally ensued took everybody by surprise and mixed up all electoral alliances that had been forged in the weeks before. The AAN team gives a first look at what is still a very fluid field (with input from Thomas Ruttig, Gran Hewad, Obaid Ali).
Last minute scramble
The registration of presidential candidates for the 2014 elections has descended into a last minute scramble, with almost everybody who had even fleetingly considered running, finally making their way to the IEC. The frenzy seems to have been largely inspired by the absence of a clear endorsement of any of the candidates by President Karzai and the ever-widening field with each person that registered. With everybody’s chances diluted, it suddenly became more interesting for minor candidates to also cast in their lot. The IEC, as a result, had to keep its offices open until midnight to accommodate the last minute interest; at closing time there was apparently still a queue of at least eight nominees, with their entourages, waiting to be registered.
The purge of the ambitious
According to sources in the government the candidate registration has resulted in the resignation of at least 25 government officials. High-profile resignations included the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Mines, Commerce, and Energy & Water; at least two provincial governors (Nangarhar and Bamyan); at least two senior advisers (Rahim Wardak and Arsela); the head of the High Office of Oversight, and several MPs. The fact that many of them resigned only on the very last day, suggests that they too got caught up in a spur of the moment decision.
Not everyone will really eventually run
As usual, not everyone who registers as a candidate will finally stand. Given the seemingly spontaneous nature of some of the decisions, some of them will probably fail to meet the nomination criteria. These include handing over the names, voter card numbers and fingerprints of 100,000 supporters and a deposit of 1 million afghani (approximately USD 20,000, which will be repaid if the candidate receives at least 10% of the vote in the first round). Like in previous elections, many of the candidates will have only “stood up, to be persuaded to sit down again” in the on-going game that includes eliminating possible rivals and co-opting potential vote banks. This means that the merry-go-round of meetings and support-swaps is likely to continue unabated in the six months that still remain until Election Day. It also means that Karzai’s (so far very indirect) candidate endorsements are likely to continue to be ambiguous and fluctuating, keeping everybody guessing as to what his plan might be – most probably until the very end.
Quite a spectacle
The registration process this time around was much more of a spectacle than it had ever been in the past, when candidates just came to the IEC with their VPs. It started with the registrations of Abdullah and Sayyaf, both of them turning up at the IEC compound with as many cars and high-level supporters as they could find, prompting all major candidates after them to attempt to do the same. The long motorcades of armoured cars, bodyguards and entourages were in many ways reminiscent of the show of force associated with militia leaders or newly appointed government officials in an area that is not their own. The increased use of social media, compared to five years ago, and the droves of journalists gathered at the IEC, only added to the whole circus.
A very divided field
With the list slowly shaping up, now begins the task of unpicking what the possible vote banks are and how badly they have been divided. For this, one should not only look at the ticket itself – the presidential candidates and their VPs – but also at who has declared their support, among others by turning up at the registration ceremony. When looking at who went with whom, it becomes clear how very divided the field has become; none of the major election alliances concluded over the past weeks has survived unscathed.
The National Front, that had long announced the fielding of a unity candidate, is now divided between three tickets: (1) Dr Abdullah who was joined by Mohaqeq as second running mate; (2) Ahmad Zia Massoud who joined the ticket of Zalmay Rassoul (and seems to be trying hard to outshine him); and (3) Dostum who has joined Ashraf Ghani. The fact that Ismail Khan joined the ticket of Sayyaf further fractured the Tajik and Jamiati network. The remarkable and unlikely Jamiat-Hezb-e Islami agreement, that led to the inclusion of Hezb’s vice chairman Mohammad Khan on Dr Abdullah’s ticket, had already been shaken by considerable criticism from the fringes of both parties. It was further challenged when Qutbuddin Helal, prominent member of Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, registered his own candidacy.
The Hazara vote – to the extent that it is indeed ethnically tied – may split between Mohaqeq, Danesh (Khalili network, VP on Ashraf Ghani’s ticket), and Habiba Sohrabi (former Bamyan governor on Rassul’s ticket). Even the vote bank that is generally considered most stable, that of the Uzbeks under the leadership of Dostum, has become somewhat shaky, with some of the non-Junbesh Uzbek vote possibly going to Shahrani (Minister of Mines until today and VP with Qayum Karzai) and Erfan (VP with Sayyaf).
Ashraf Ghani is running, but so is his brother Hashmat Ghani, and with Sarwar Ahmadzai also stepping forward (a minor presidential candidate in 2009), there are three contenders from the same tribe. Despite his overall poor showing, Sarwar Ahmadzai did win more votes than Ashraf Ghani in their home province Logar in 2009. Nader Naeem, grandson of the king is running as a candidate, while Mustafa Zaher, another grandson was spotted in Zalmay Rassoul’s entourage.
The Karzai team, if there is still such a thing, is split in many directions: prominents like Spanta and Mahmud Karzai support Qayum Karzai. Modaber is upset for having been bumped off a ticket at the last moment. Daudzai, as a former Hezbi, may be supporting Abdullah’s Jamiat/Hezb ticket, but then again he may not. Khalili may well put his weight behind Ashraf Ghani, now that he has teamed together with Danesh (Khalili is himself not running after two terms as Vice President, but Danesh is his ally and was most likely his pick). Rahim Wardak, Azizullah Ludin and Ahadi have registered their own candidacies.
Mojaddedi’s blessing for the Rassul team, which Zia Massoud joined, means that the “mujahedin vote bank” is also split – at least between Rassul’s ticket (who was in exile, and not a fighter) and that of Sayyaf and Ismail Khan who, as “jihadi leaders” will try to mobilise on that basis. Rahim Wardak will probably also try to make the most of his role during the jehad.
Most of the so-called “doctors without borders” have stuck with Ashraf Ghani and refrained from being candidates themselves (Khalilzad, Jalali, Hanif Atmar), the main exception being Qayum Karzai who registered his own candidacy.
There are also those who said they would run and then didn’t (although there are now surprisingly very few). These include most prominently Fauzia Kufi who repeatedly in the international press and at international conferences announced her intention to nominate herself – despite the fact that she did not meet the criteria (nominees have to be at least 40 years of age).
All in all, there is so far no sign of a grand palace plan, unless it is – as some opposition figures have started to allege – to preside over several months of continued messy politicking. As the list firms up, first after the IEC releases the final count of initial nominees, then as the ECC checks whether all nominees meet the criteria, and finally as several candidates will decide to step down, the field of contenders should become clearer. For now, however, it is as murky as when the whole swirl of politicking started several months ago.
N.B. At the time of posting the final list of registered nominees was not yet clear, as the IEC continued to register the last waiting candidates. The info will be updated as it comes in.
1. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, main contester in the 2009 presidential elections, with Eng Muhammad Khan and Haji Muhammad Muhaqeq as first and second vice presidential candidates.
2. Besmillah Sher, leader of Hezb-e Wefaq Melli Islami (National Islamic Pact Party), minor contender in the 2009 presidential elections as well; with Abdul Karim Ahmadyar and Sultan Hameed Sultani as first and second vice presidential candidates.
3. Abdurab Rasul Sayaf, leader of the Dawat Party and MP from Kabul: with Ismail Khan (minister of water and energy, Jamiati from Herat) and Abdul Wahab Erfan as first and second vice presidential candidates.
4. Fazel Karim Najimi, former director in one of the USAID development project and advisor in the agricultural and rural development ministries; with Saber Tamkin and Susan Hajati as first and second vice presidential candidates.
5. Qutbuddin Helal, spokesperson of Hezb-e Islami Hekmatyar during the 1990s and, more recently, member of the Hezb-e Islami peace delegation to Kabul; with Enayatullah Enayat (former governor in Jowzjan and Badghis) and Muhammad Ali Nabizada (second VP for Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in the 2009 presidential election) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
6. Abdul Rahim Wardak, former minister of defence, resigned as security adviser, with Shah Abdul Ahad Afzali (former governor in Ghor) and Seyyed Hussain Anwari (former governor in Herat, leader of Harakat-e Islami Party) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
7. Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, brother of other presidential contender Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, leader of the Kuchi Council; with Abdullah Buromand and Abed Nazar as first and second vice presidential candidates.
8. Del Agha Kohdamani; with Zalmai Hamraz and Ms Torpekai Azizi as first and second vice presidential candidates.
9. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, former minister of finance and dean of Kabul university, resigned as head of the transition coordination commission to run; with Gen Abdulrashid Dostum (leader of Junbesh party) and Mohammad Sarwar Danish (former Daikondi governor and minister of Justice, Hezb-e Wahdat) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
10. Zalmai Rassul, former head of the NSC, resigned as minister of foreign affairs to run; with Ahmad Zia Massud (former Vice President, brother of Ahmad Shah Massoud) and Ms Habiba Surabi (resigned as Bamyan governor to run) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
11. Sarwar Ahmadzai, US-based Afghan who ran in the 2009 presidential elections as well; with Dr Abdul Rahman and Kabir Quraishi as first and second vice presidential candidates.
12. Qayum Karzai, brother of current president Karzai, with Wahidullah Shahrani (resigned as minister of mines to run) and Ibrahim Qasemi (sitting MP) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
13. Sardar Mohammad Nader, grandson of King Zaher Shah, with Taj Mohammad Akbar (Kabul university lecturer and ex-director of the De Pashtani Bank) and Azizullah Poya (former head of the Ghazni provincial council) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
14. Hamidullah Qaderi, fomer minister of transport and civil aviation, with Aref Baraki and Ms Humaira Haqmal as first and second vice presidential candidates.
15. Daud Sultanzoy, Tolo TV presenter and former MP from Ghazni; with Ahmad Sa'idi (political analyst/public commentator and former diplomat) and Ms Kazima Mohaqeq (university lecturer) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
16. Gul Agha Sherzai, resigned as governor of Nangarhar to run; with Seyyed Hussain Alemi Balkhi (Kabul MP) and Mohammad Hashem Zare (former governor for Jowzjan) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
17. Azizullah Ludin, former head of the parliament's secretariat and the IEC (2007-10, includingduring the 2009 election), resigned as head of the High Office of Oversight on Anti-Corruption to run; with Abdul Rahim Kazemi (former Afghan Ambassador to Kuwait) and Hamidullah Khan Rahimi as first and second vice presidential candidates.
18. Seyyed Ishaq Gelani, leader of the National Solidarity Movement, resigned as MP to run; with Zekria Nurzai (cousin of Aref Nurzai) and Ms Sima Asmati as first and second vice presidential candidates.
19. Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, resigned as minister of commerce; with Hashmatullah Mojadedi and Ismail Qasemyar (presidential adviser and member of the High Peace Council) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
20. Hedayat Amin Arsala, former Senior Minister; with General Khodaidad (former Counternarcotics minister) and Ms Safia Sediqi (former MP) as first and second vice presidential candidates.
21. Ms Khadija Ghaznawi, with General Mohammad Qasem Faezi and General Kheir Mohammad Barez as first and second vice presidential candidates.
22. Faruq Azam; with Abdul Ghani Islati, and Ahmad Shah Payizi, as first and second vice presidential candidates.
23. Salman Ali Dostzada, from the Hezb-e Kar o Towsia (Labour and Development Party); with Yusuf Amin Zazai and Aziza Ruhban Wardak as first and second vice presidential candidates.
24. Nader Shah Ahmadzai, with Dr Faiz Daqiq and Qadam Ali Khadem as first and second vice presidential candidates.
25. Abdul Hadi Dabir, with Seyyed Amrullah Padshah and Nissar Ahmad Khairandesh as first and second vice presidential candidates.
26. Nur Rahman Lewal, with Ahmad Jan Nazari and Eng Rafiullah Laghmani as first and second vice presidential candidates.
27. Dr Dawar Ahmad Nadim, with Ms Hossai Andar and Mohammad Hassan Safi as first and second vice presidential candidates.
See this ToloNews Youtube slideshow for picture of a large number of the nominees (in Dari).