Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (6): Presidential campaign kicks off amid uncertainty

Ali Yawar Adili 28 min

The campaign to become Afghanistan’s new president will be launched later today. As 18 candidates approach the starting line, AAN researcher Ali Yawar Adili looks at lingering doubts that the election will actually happen, at the rules on campaigning, and the divisions and splits in the various political parties that have taken place in the run-up to the campaign. As an annexe to this dispatch, he also re-publishes brief biographies of the 18 men hoping to become Afghanistan’s next president, along with their running mates.

An IEC registration officer registers a voter at Naderia High School in Kabul as the IEC launched a 22-day top up voter registration across the country on 8 June. Photo: IEC Facebook page, 8 June 2018An IEC registration officer registers a voter at Naderia High School in Kabul as the IEC launched a 22-day top up voter registration across the country on 8 June. Photo: IEC Facebook page, 8 June 2018

18 presidential candidates will today embark on the 60-day presidential election campaign, despite several expressing a lack of confidence in the elections actually being held on schedule, on 28 September 2019. Their doubt emanates from two directions:

  • Insecurity is concerning some candidates, raising their doubts as to whether an inclusive election is possible. “In view of the current situation in the country,” said Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, “when we lose our military personnel and civilians every day, the elections will likely face challenges.” This is undoubtedly true – a large proportion of Afghans will be disenfranchised because they could not register or could not vote, as the case in the parliamentary elections. However, insecurity, Ulumi said, could prevent the poll from happening at all.
  • Ongoing peace talks between the United States and the Taleban, and the intra-Afghan dialogue (see AAN’s reporting here, and here) have sparked what candidate Shaida Muhammad Abdali described as a “lack of trust” as to whether the elections would go ahead on 28 September. As we reported at the end of June: The idea of the delay was, US officials told the Wall Street Journal, “raised by U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in talks with various stakeholders and intermediaries.” The thinking was that a longer time-frame might be needed to secure a deal and that a change of government should not happen until the Taleban – post a peace deal – could have a say. On the other side of the argument are concerned that sacrificing elections might mean they are never again held. Abdali told the media on 21 July that there had been expectations that the peace process would reach some type of conclusion before the elections, but this had not yet happened, creating a “confusion” between the two processes.

Some candidates back a possible delay. A member of Hezb-e Islami, which is fielding party leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Humayun Jarir, said, “The peace process is in its crucial stage…. If it becomes more serious and if there are indications that the path to peace is near, we prefer to have peace first and then conduct the elections in a peaceful environment.” Presidential hopeful Muhammad Shahab Hakimi said that the Council of Presidential Candidates, which, he said, included 13 out of 18 presidential candidates, had suggested, in talks with Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General, Tadamichi Yamamoto, a delay and a caretaker government. President Ghani is quite contrary: in remarks during the cabinet meeting on 17 July, he said, “I hope no doubt remains that election is inevitable, feasible, necessary and our national duty.”

Despite all this, preparations and procedures have not stopped. On 23 April, Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) chair Zuhra Bayan Shinwari told the press that no “complaints and objections had been filed against the preliminary list of the presidential candidates” and it, therefore, could confirm all the 18 presidential candidates. Two days later, on 25 April, the IEC held (see its news bulletin no 11 here)  a draw to determine the order of the candidates’ names on the ballot. It then published (see here) the final list of presidential candidates. They had been able to withdraw their candidacies until this point, but no one did so. If they withdraw from the contest after this date, their names will remain on the ballot, but any votes cast for them will be not counted and their deposits will not be returned (the money would go into state coffers). (1)

The IEC, on 15 July, issued accreditation letters to only presidential candidates and their running-mates which is meant to confirm their candidacy and enable them to officially launch their campaign as per the electoral calendar on 28 July (this is according to article 19, para 1, section 12 of the electoral law). One candidate Ghulam Faruq Nejrabi refused (media reports here and here) to receive his accreditation letter, saying, “We do not accept this accreditation letter of fraud until there is peace and an interim government is established.” IEC deputy spokesman, Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, however, told AAN on 27 July that Nejrabi had refused to receive his accreditation letter in front of the media but did pick it up the following day.

On 25 July, the ECC held a press conference, saying it was “fully ready to receive and review complaints regarding the campaign period” in the centre and provinces.

The limits and bounds of the election campaign – and allegations of violations already

Article 76 of the electoral law sets a 60-day campaign period for the presidential candidates, which ends 48 hours before election day. (2) According to the calendar (annexed to this AAN’s report) for this election, the campaign starts on 28 July and will continue until 25 September. It will be followed by a 48-hour period of silence, during which candidates, political parties and coalitions cannot hold rallies, appear in the media, put up posters, billboards or send messages by telephone or on social media before polling starts.

Head of the IEC Secretariat Habib ul-Rahman Nang has said candidates can spend a maximum of almost half a billion afghanis (specifically 441,783,555 Afs or 5,522,294 USD). The electoral law leaves the calculation of this upper limit to the IEC. (3) The law obliges candidates to report to the IEC their sources of funding, how much they spend and the general categories of expenses, with a fine, threatened to those making false reports. Candidates are also banned from taking money from foreign citizens and states and diplomatic missions, this time with the threat of prison for those breaking the law. (4) On 27 July, the IEC also published the conditions for the election campaign which include that candidates, political parties and coalitions cannot invite foreign citizens or organisations to their campaign activities nor can they take part in election campaign activities.

A few days before the campaign started, on 19 July 2019, the Election Support Group, which comprises key donors (the European Union, Australia, Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic Plus group, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States), NATO and UNAMA, issued a statement calling on President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah

…to publicly explain concrete measures being taken to ensure that Government officials (at all levels) and state resources are not used to advantage or disadvantage any particular candidate; and to guarantee that the IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will be given complete autonomy/independence in the management of the electoral process.

The Election Support Group said that it took “allegations of abuse of authority seriously and believes such accusations – whether real or perceived – warrant attention by the NUG leaders in order to reassure all candidates, the people of Afghanistan and its international partners, that the principles of fair competition, will be respected.”(5)

A few days later, on 21 July, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) announced a ‘hiring and firing ban’ for government positions. It said it had halted all “new appointments and recruitments related to the agency until the end of the election.” It said that, based on the decision of the IDLG leadership, no one could be appointed to government positions from grades one to eight in the centre, provinces, districts and municipalities until the end of the presidential elections. The IDLG said that for those who had already been shortlisted (for any positions) or had undergone competitive tests, the remaining procedures for their appointment would be carried out only after the election. Based on this decision, state institutions could only now appoint or dismiss certain individuals based on “serious need, security problems, administrative corruption or the incompetence of employees.”

Despite the ban, Hanif Atmar’s Peace and Moderation ticket said, in a statement, on 25 July, that “former president and presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, in continuation of illegal actions, yesterday appointed a number of high-ranking officials including ambassadors and the head of the Afghanistan Cricket Board.” It said these appointments “like other appointments in the last eight months have absolutely political and campaign dimensions and contravene electoral law and the principles and norms of political ethics.” It called for a halt to “the use of government resources and authority by the ruling team for engineering the election, including the reversal of the recent appointments.”

The reference is to President Ghani’s controversial appointment that of the former head of Afghanistan’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, Walid Tamim, as the new ambassador to India. Tamim himself tweeted on 26 July that, while he was waiting to receive agreement from India for him to go to Delhi, he had also been appointed to serve as the acting deputy minister of finance for revenue and customs, one of the key revenue-raising positions in government. Tamim is under investigation for corruption by the Attorney General’s Office in a case which spokesman Jamshid Rasuli said involved “embezzlement.” (6) On 24 July, Ghani also appointed (media report here) Farhan Yusufzai to replace Azizullah Fazli, as the head of Afghanistan’s Cricket Board.

There have also been allegations of another type of violation of the law. On 20 July, the ECC said it had received claims by people, as well as media reports, about what it called the “start of premature election campaigning by some presidential candidates.” It said it “seriously” advised, “all the presidential candidates to avoid holding any gatherings, premature campaign, negative competitions and activities of campaign nature for the purpose of the election campaign.” It reminded political parties and candidates that premature campaigning could be penalised with “a warning, a ban on participation for part of or the entire election campaign period, a ban on standing in the election, or a cash fine, depending on the level of the violation.” (7)

18 presidential candidates are running to become the next president of Afghanistan. They are expected to hit their campaign trail today. Photo: Screenshot of candidate list from IEC Facebook, 25 April 2019

18 presidential candidates are running to become the next president of Afghanistan. They are expected to hit their campaign trail today.
Photo: Screenshot of candidate list from IEC Facebook, 25 April 2019

Political party field and positions (splits and divisions)

As the campaign starts, some of the candidates will enjoy the backing of political parties. Even though the Afghan electoral system does not favour them, some parties especially the tanzims, the military-political factions that emerged as powerful players during the war, are highly influential. (8) Their networks can organise campaigning, secure funding and mobilise support and voters. Most have seen splits since 2001. However, in the months leading up to the start of the election campaign, several influential political parties have seen more splits and divisions, primarily over which candidate to back. These are listed below.

  • Jamiat-e Islami

The leadership council of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan held a meeting at the home of the acting head, and foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, on 19 January 2019, where members unanimously decided that Dr Abdullah was the party candidate for the 2019 presidential election. They also decided that Jamiat-e Islami would join forces with Jombesh-e Melli Islami, led by first Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum, and Wahdat-e Islami, led by the former second vice-president and now the head of High Peace Council, Karim Khalili, under one ticket for the upcoming election.

However, four days later, on 23 January, several Jamiat heavyweights, including former vice president Yusef Qanuni (see here), Jamiat chief executive and former Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur (see here) and  former minister of water and energy and former Herat governor Ismail Khan (see here) announced via Facebook that the “overwhelming majority of the leadership council members” had decided to “fully support” Hanif Atmar’s Peace and Moderation election ticket, with Qanuni as his first running mate. They said that Jamiat had fielded and supported Dr Abdullah as the party’s candidate in the 2009 and 2014 presidential elections, but that he had not been “successful in his duties” in those elections, nor in his post as chief executive of the National Unity Government. The statement said the leadership council, based on “past experiences and various reasons,” had concluded that introducing an “independent candidate” for the presidential election was not “justifiable”: this translates, it seems, into a decision that getting a Jamiat vice president was more likely to succeed than trying to get a Jamiat president elected.  (9)

Qanuni, during a ceremony organised by Atmar’s Peace and Moderation ticket before going to the IEC for registration on 18 January 2019, highlighted the role played by Jamiat stalwarts Ustad Atta and Ismail Khan in putting together the ticket: “I cannot avoid naming two personalities. If their continued efforts had not been made, we would not have succeeded.” Qanuni also named other backers: Kalimullah Naqibi, deputy head of Jamiat, Abdul Satar Murad, head of the political committee of Jamiat and former minister of economy, Engineer Aref Sarwari, former head of NDS; Abdul Malek Hamwar, former minister of rural development and rehabilitation and; Baz Muhammad Ahmadi, deputy minister of interior for counter-narcotics.

There is also a third Jamiat-dominated ticket, that of Ahmad Wali Massud (see annex).

  • Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami

Khalili’s Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami held a two-day, political-consultative meeting on 26 and 27 June before issuing a 15-point final resolution which included the statement: “We announce to all supporters of the [party] across Afghanistan that the only election ticket supported by the party is [Abdullah’s] Stability and Integration ticket.” This throws the party’s weight behind Asadullah Sadati who was introduced by Khalili as Abdullah’s second running-mate. Yet Wahdat stalwart and Khalili protégé, current Second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh, is Ashraf Ghani’s second running mate. Danesh was not happy about the party’s decision, writing on his Facebook page on 28 June, that he had written the party constitution, which had been ratified on 3 September 2004 at the party’s first summit. Khalili, Danesh and Habiba Wahaj (who is now an adviser to Danesh) were then elected respectively as the leader and first and second deputies. Danesh also wrote that he and “a large number of other party activists” had not been invited to the political-consultative meeting in June.

  • Hezb-e Ensejam-e Melli

Sadeq Mudaber, head of Hezb-e Ensejam-e Milli (National Solidarity Party), said the party’s political committee and the heads of provincial offices had held a meeting on 23 July where they once again reiterated their “resolute and all-out support for  [Ashraf Ghani’s] State-Builder team” and announced their “full readiness to actively campaign in its support.”

However, four days earlier, on 19 July, the deputy leader of the party, former Daikundi MP, Muhammad Nur Akbari, issued a statement announcing his support for Atmar’s Peace and Moderation ticket. He called on his supporters and “like-minded people in the centre [Kabul] and the provinces” to work for its victory. Two days later, on 21 July, he claimed in a post that they had failed to convince the party members and supporters to unify behind a single candidate and that this failure was due to “double standards” by “some elements within the government” who wanted to “weaken” the party.

  • Green Trend of Afghanistan

On 24 June, the Green Trend of Afghanistan led by Ghani’s first running mate, Amrullah Saleh, saw a breakaway faction. The Qiyam – Fraksiyun-e Enshe’abi-ye Rawand-e Sabz Afghanistan (Uprising – Splinter  Faction of Green Trend of Afghanistan) is led by Timur Shah Bushar, a 2018 parliamentary candidate from Kabul, who introduced himself to AAN as having been a co-founder of the original Green Trend. The splinter group issued a statement with a four-point policy position: Amrullah Saleh cannot represent us in the upcoming election; his joining Ghani’s State-Builder election ticket is his personal decision; the Green Trend had not yet decided which election ticket to join and; it will soon announce its decision in consultation with the people. Since then, the splinter group has held gatherings in Kapisa on 17 July and Parwan on 19 July to declare its existence in those provinces. One official of the splinter faction who asked not to be named told AAN on 25 July that it had been in negotiations with three major teams (Atmar’s Peace and Moderation; Ghani’s State-Builder; and Abdullah’s Stability and Integration) and that significant progress has been made with the first – Atmar’s – ticket.

  • Hezb-e Paiwand-e Melli (National Accord Party)

Meanwhile, one party still seems united. Paiwand-e Melli, led by Sayyed Mansur Naderi, issued a statement on 21 January 2019 saying that the leadership board of the party and all the dozens of political, social and cultural organisations across the country associated with it, “announces its resolute support” for Atmar’s Peace and Moderation.

At the starting line

Some of the tickets will be holding large gatherings today to inaugurate their campaigns. During the next two months, they will also travel to the provinces to drum up support from the voters. Security will be a major concern for these electioneering activities. The tickets with a hope of success will be trying to rally support and gain momentum to get their man through to the second round, or even with the hoping of winning outright by getting 50 per cent plus of the votes on the first round. The aim of other tickets is likely to position themselves in the election well enough to then drop out in favour of a stronger candidate in the hope of rewards in the next government.

What exactly the tickets will be offering voters is not yet clear. Of the 18 tickets now running in the presidential elections, no significant programme has yet been announced. Only Atmar’s ticket has spoken of a specific policy – creating the post of a prime minister by amending the constitution through a Loya Jirga.  Atmar himself confirmed this aim in a recent interview with Tolonews, in which he said:

The agreement of our team is that if we win, we will maintain the presidential system hundred per cent [but] under this system, for the betterment of governance affairs [and] considering the successful experience of His Majesty [Zaher Shah’s] reign, we will create the post of sadr-e azam [prime minister] by amending the constitution who will be appointed and dismissed by the president.”

Plans and promises should become somewhat clearer as the campaign goes on, although Afghan election candidates are not known for presenting clear manifestos and programmes to voters. There might also be rounds of televised debates among the candidates and media interviews. In past elections, not all candidates wanted to be grilled by journalists. Ustad Sayyaf, for example, was notoriously camera-shy in 2014 (see AAN reporting on the role of the media in the last election campaign). Yet, this is a time when journalists can get to interview the country’s leading politicians and – if they dare – ask hard questions.


Annex: the 2019 presidential tickets

Brief biographies of the candidates and their running mates originally published on February 2019 when the preliminary list of candidates was released are given below. They are listed by the name for the tickets adopted by each team. ‘Justice’ and ‘peace’ are the two most commonly used words to appear in the names. We follow IEC’s order of the tickets on the ballot.

Amniyat wa Adalat (Security and Justice) team led by Rahmatullah Nabil, a Pashtun from Maidan Wardak (see AAN bio here). He served as the head of President’s Protection Service (PPS) in the presidential palace under President Karzai and then as chief of National Directorate of Security (NDS) from July 2010 to late 2015 (see AAN’s previous reporting here). He is a founding member of Mehwar-e Mardom-e Afghanistan coalition (AAN reporting here). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Murad Ali Murad, a Hazara from Ghor province, who has served as commander of the Kabul Garrison until early 2019 (a position he resigned from in order to be able to run) and before as senior deputy minister of interior for security, first deputy of chief of army staff, and general commander of ground forces (see also his short bio on a Facebook page of his supporters here).
  • Dr Massuda Jalal, a Tajik from Badakhshan, who was a presidential candidate in the first, 2004 presidential election, and then served as the minister of women’s affairs from October 2004 to July 2006 (see also AAN’s previous reporting here). She was a candidate in the October 2018 parliamentary elections from Kabul but was not elected.

Modar Watan (Motherland) led by Nurullah Jalili, a Sayyed from Nangarhar province who graduated from Kabul Medical University. He previously worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Taleban. He is the director of the Kabul-based road-construction company America. Both he and his company worked as contractors with the US military (according to diplomatic sources). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Khalil Roman, a Tajik born in Kabul, who has graduated in journalism, was a member of the Parcham branch of People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, has served as chief of staff of former President Dr Najibullah, and deputy chief of staff of former President Karzai. He was an unsuccessful candidate in 2010 parliamentary elections from Kabul province.
  • Cheragh Ali Cheragh, has served as director of Kunduz public health department, head of Jamhuriyat hospital, Kabul Medical Institute, acting head of Shahid Rabbani Education University, and head of Balkh University (media report here). Cheragh was the second running-mate of Dr Abdullah in the 2009 presidential elections.

Tadbir wa Tawse’a (Prudence and Development) team led by Dr Faramarz Tamana, a Tajik born in Herat, who holds two PhD degrees in the field of international relations and studies from Tehran University, Iran, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. He has worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in various capacities since 2002. Before registering to run for the presidential elections, he was head of the Centre for Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has been teaching as a lecturer in different universities for the last ten years and is the chancellor of a private Afghanistan University. His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Pohanmal (Professor) Sayyed Qias Sa’idi, born in Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province. Sa’idi has completed his higher education in the field of economics from the University of Nangarhar and Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. He has worked with UNICEF as the head of public outreach and information in Nangarhar, in charge of the regional office of the United Nations Refugees Agency in eastern provinces, and head of Nangarhar provincial department of economy.
  •  Dr Muhammad Amin Reshadat, a Hazara born in Ghazni, holds a PhD in sociology (development and social change) from Shiraz University in Iran. Reshadat is currently deputy chancellor and a member of the founding board of private Gharjestan University in Kabul. (The biographical information is extracted from their biographies published in Dari on Tamana’s Facebook account on 17 January 2019.)

Musharekat wa Taghir (Participation and Change) team led by Shaida Abdali, a Pashtun from Kandahar, who holds a master’s degree from the US and a PhD from India, and served as former deputy head of the National Security Council under former President, Hamed Karzai. Abdali has also been ambassador to India (2012-18). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Abdul Basir Salangi, a Tajik from Parwan, is a member of Jamiat-e Islami party, has served as chief of police in Kabul, Maidan Wardak and Nangarhar between 2002 and 2009, as well as the governor of Parwan and Farah in 2009-18 (see also this).
  • Zulfeqar Omid, a Hazara from Daikundi, is the leader of Labour and Development Party (Hezb-e Kar wa Tawse’a) and is one of the leaders of the Enlightening Movement, a predominantly Hazara protest movement that emerged in protest to the rerouting of TUTAP power line from Bamyan to Salang (see AAN background here and here). Omid served as the director of international relations at the administrative office of the president during Karzai’s second term, and was an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate 2018 from Kabul and 2004 from Daikundi.

Wefaq-e Melli (National Accord) team led by Ahmad Wali Massud, a Tajik from Panjshir, who is another leading Jamiat member and brother of assassinated mujahedin leader Ahmad Shah Massud. He served as Afghan ambassador to London for many years, starting under the ISA government of Prof Borhanuddin Rabbani (1992-96). Today, he heads the Ahmad Shah Massud foundation in Kabul. Massud’s first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Pohand Dr Farida Momand, a Pashtun from Nangarhar, who has served as professor at Kabul Medical University and dean of the paediatric department, and minister of higher education from President Ghani’s camp from April 2015 to 14 November 2016, when she lost a vote of confidence in the Wolesi Jirga (see AAN’s background here and here); she was an unsuccessful candidate for the 2009 provincial elections,  the 2010 and 2018 parliamentary elections.
  • Dr Latif Nazari, a Hazara from Ghazni, holds a PhD in international relations from Tehran University, Iran, and is the founder of Eslahat Newspaper and the head of the board of founders of private Gharjestan University. Nazari was a 2018 parliamentary candidate from Kabul, but did not win (his bio on his supporters’ Facebook page here). Nazari was previously a member of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Mardom led by Muhammad Mohaqeq.

Masuliat wa Adalat (Responsibility and Justice) team, led by Nur Rahman Liwal. He was born in Logar province and is a computer and software engineer and the founder and owner of Pashto language software company in Kabul (media report here). He was also a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Abdul Hadi Zul-Hekmat, a Pashtun from Logar province
  • Muhammad Yahya Wyar, a Pashtun from Khak-e-Jabar district of Kabul province, and a medical doctor with Jihadi background. He was a candidate for both 2014 and 2018 WJ elections, but failed to be elected. He worked as a public outreach officer for the Joint Election Management Body (JEMB) in 2005.

Solh, Qanuniat wa Refah (Peace, Lawfulness and Welfare) team led by Shahab Hakimi, a Pashtun from Maidan Wardak province, who holds a degree in agriculture from Kabul University and a master’s degree in administration from Preston University, Islamabad. He has worked as a lecturer at Kabul and, recently, as the director of the Mine Detection Centre. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2005 Wolesi Jirga elections. His first and second running-mates are respectively (media reports here and here):

  • Nur ul-Habib Hasir (no information available so far)
  • Abdul Ali Sarabi (no information available so far)

Dawlat-sazan (State-builders) team led by Muhammad Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun from Logar province, who is the incumbent president. He has served as an adviser to former President Karzai during his interim administration, chancellor of Kabul University, and minister of finance. He was a candidate in the 2009 presidential elections and ranked fourth. He was appointed by Karzai as the head of the Transition Coordination Commission. The team’s title possibly refers to Ghani’s book Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World (2009, with Clare Lockhart). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik from Panjshir, and a former Jamiati who has distanced himself from his old party. He now runs his own Green Trend of Afghanistan, which he established after his resignation as NDS director in 2010 and had its first public appearance on 5 May 2011. Saleh supported Dr Abdullah in the 2014 presidential election. During the NUG, he co-headed the fact-finding commission investigating the 2015 fall of Kunduz. He was appointed as state minister for security reform in March 2017, but resigned after three months and as minister of interior in December 2018. After less than a month, he resigned again to be able to run on Ghani’s ticket (see AAN background here and here).
  • Second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh, a Hazara from Daikundi province, served as the first governor of Daikundi (after it was established in 2004), minister of justice and higher education under former President Karzai. Danesh was a member of the constitutional drafting commission in 2003. He is a member of Khalili’s Wahdat-e Islami Party, which supported Ghani in the 2014 presidential election. However, this time, Khalili’s party has announced its support for Abdullah.
  • It is important to note Ghani has also picked a third, informal running-mate: Muhammad Yusef Ghazanfar, an Uzbek and former MP from Balkh, and brother of former minister of women’s affairs, Husn Banu Ghazanfar (diplomatic source). Ghazanfar was present at Ghani’s registration and might serve as an adviser or special representative to him, until any possible amendment to the constitution to create a third vice-presidential post. An idea had been floated to amend the constitution to create a third vice-presidential post, but in more practical terms, this step is a bid to garner the votes of the Uzbek community, the fourth-largest ethnic group of the country. (On Ghani’s 2014 ticket, Dostum was the vice-president ‘for the Uzbeks’; there was no Tajik on the ticket then.)

Subat wa Hamgerayi (Stability and Integration) team led by Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the current chief executive of the National Unity Government and a prominent member of Jamiat-e Islami. After 2009 and 2014, this is the third time Abdullah has run for the presidency. Some leaders of his party, such as Ismail Khan, had requested him not to run again, criticising him for his – in his view – too quiet role in what he called the “kindergarten” National Unity Government. Abdullah’s first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Dr Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, an Uzbek born in Jawzjan, who holds a medical degree from Balkh University and has served as correspondent, producer and reporter with the BBC Uzbek service. He was an MP from 2010 to 2015, and chief of staff of first Vice-President General Abdul Rashid Dostum from 2015 until January 2019 when he resigned to be Dostum’s man in Abdullah’s ticket (see his bio on his Facebook page in English here).
  • Asadullah Sadati, a Hazara MP from Daikundi, who holds a degree in literature from Kabul University and a master’s degree in international relations from the private Ibn-e Sina Unversity, also Kabul. He was an MP from 2010 to 2019 and is affiliated with the leader of one faction of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami and head of High Peace Council, Muhammad Karim Khalili.

Amal mekonem, sho’ar na medehem (We act, we do not chant slogans) team led by Hakim Tursan, an Uzbek born in Kabul. He graduated in Persian literature from Kabul University, and served in various intelligence capacities under former President Dr Najibullah. He ran in 2009 (but withdrew before the campaign) and 2014 (according to his bio, his supporters published). His running-mates are respectively:

  • Nader Shah Ahmadzai, a Pashtun from Kabul, who is head of Civil Rights and Research Organisation of Afghanistan. He was one of the 17 presidential candidates disqualified in the 2014 presidential election
  • Muhammad Shafi Qaisari, an Uzbek from Qaisar district of Faryab (see also here). He graduated from the Polytechnic Engineering Faculty at the University of Kabul and is a former head of Governmental Housing Company (Tassadi-ye Microrayonha) in Kabul. Qaisari is a leftist and former member of the Jombesh party (according to diplomatic sources).

Solh wa Adalat-e Islami (Peace and Islamic Justice) team led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Pashtun from Kunduz, the undisputed leader of Hezb-e Islami until the post-2001 period and now of one of its factions (AAN background). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Dr Fazl ul-Hadi Wazin, a Tajik from Parwan, who has a PhD degree in Islamic studies from Imam Muhammad Ben Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and served as a lecturer in International Islamic University in Islamabad, and a visiting professor in Fatema Jinah University, Pakistan.
  • Mufti Hafiz ul-Rahman Naqi, a Tajik from Badakhshan, who has served as a judge, as well as in other capacities in the judiciary, and was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2010 and 2018 parliamentary elections.

The information about the two running-mates is extracted from their bios AAN received from a deputy spokesman for the party, Fazl Ghani Haqmal. He claimed in a conversation with AAN on 7 February that Hezb-e Islami had picked the running-mates based on merits, and not on any division of ethnic groups. Haqmal said that both running-mates were members of Hezb-e Islami. Media had earlier wrongly reported that Wazin was an Uzbek (see here and here).

Azadi wa Adalat (Freedom and Justice) led by Abdul Latif Pedram, a Tajik from Badakhshan, who leads his own party, the Tajik-ethno-nationalist and pro-federalism National Congress Party. Pedram was an unsuccessful 2004 presidential candidate, a two-term (2005-10 and 2010-19) former MP, and an unsuccessful 2018 parliamentary candidate from his home province of Badakhshan. His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Ehsanullah Haidari, a Hazara from a prominent family in Ashterlai district of Daikundi province. He has a degree in sociology and archaeology from Kabul University. Haidari worked with several NGOs, including Oxfam and French Action contre la Faim.
  • Muhammad Sadeq Wardak, a Pashtun from Maidan Wardak province. He attended school up to secondary education and is a former Jihadi figure. (The info about both comes from diplomatic community sources)

Mardomsalari, Enkeshaf wa Tawazun (Democracy [People’s Power], Development and Balance) team led by Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, a Pashtun from Kandahar, who leads his own political party called Hezb-e Mutahed-e Melli (National United Party) and served as minister of interior from January 2015 to February 2016 (see AAN reports here and here). He was an MP from Kandahar from 2005 to 2010. Under the government of President Najbullah (1986-92), he was a general and head of the southwestern zone, ie ‘Greater Kandahar’. His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Bashir Bezhan, a Tajik from Badakhshan (and leader of a splinter group of Pedram’s Congress party),  who has served as editor of Ariana Airlines magazine Parwaz, editor of Khabar Negar and the founder and editor of the weekly cultural magazine Cina magazine. He was and unsuccessful candidate in 2009 presidential elections and 2018 parliamentary elections from Kabul.
  • Muhammad Naim Ghayur, born in Guzara district of Herat, according to his Facebook profile, is from a mixed Tajik/Pashtun family. His father is originally from Ghor province and his mother hails from the Katawaz area of Paktika province. He holds a bachelor in law and political science degree, as well as attended several military and intelligence courses in Afghanistan and abroad. He started his official governmental career as Enjil district direct of NDS and served in the ministry of defence in different capacities, including director of intelligence for 606 Ansar police zone in Herat province (2014-18). Ghayur is a former leftist, then with the PDPA’s Parcham faction, and is currently a member of Ulumi’s party, as confirmed in a meeting with AAN in Herat earlier this year.

Mubareza bar zed Zulm wa Be-adalati (Fight against Oppression and Injustice) team led by Muhammad Ibrahim Alekozai, a Pashtun from Kandahar, who is the head of the National Consensus of the People of Afghanistan, a political coalition that came together in 2017 (media report). Since then, the group has been taking positions on political issues in a bid to establish political relevance. Alekozai is an elder of the eponymous tribe and chief of its council (according to diplomatic sources). He has graduated from political sciences from Kabul University and ran in the 2018 parliamentary elections in Kandahar, but was not elected (media report). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Khadija Ghaznawi, a Hazara born in Badakhshan (see here), but the family with origins from Ghazni (diplomatic sources), who tried to run with her own ticket in the 2014 presidential elections, but was disqualified (AAN’s reports here and here). Ghaznawi owns a logistic company, and is the president of the Ibrahim Asia Group of Companies.
  • Sayyed Same Kayani from Ismaili-inhabited Kayan valley, Dushi district of Baghlan which is dominated by the Ismaili and Paiwand-e Melli party leader Sayyed Mansur Naderi.

The as yet-unnamed ticket led by Ghulam Faruq Nejrabi, a Tajik from Kapisa province, who is the leaders of Hezb-e Esteqlal Afghanistan (Indepenence Party), holds PhD in surgery from Indira Gandhi University, India. It is the third time he is running for presidency (see also media report). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Sharifullah (no information available so far)
  • Muhammad Sharif Babakarkhel (no information available so far)

Khademin-e Mellat (Servants of the Nation) team led by Enayatullah Hafiz, a Hazara from Behsud district of Maidan Wardak. He has graduated from language and literature from Shahid Rabbani Education University, Kabul. He has been an unsuccessful two-times candidate for provincial councils, as well as an unsuccessful one-time candidate for the Wolesi Jirga (media report here). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Jannat Khan Fahim Chakari, a Pashtun from the Chakari area, Bagrami district of Kabul province. Chakari holds a bachelor degree in military affairs and is a former military officer (diplomatic sources).
  • Abdul Jamil Shirani, also a Pashtun, from Kabul. He holds a bachelor degree and is a former employee of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (diplomatic sources).

Solh wa Etedal (Peace and Moderation) team led by Muhammad Hanif Atmar, a Pashtun from Laghman, who has served as national security adviser to President Ghani until 2018, and before as minister of rural rehabilitation and development, education and interior under President Karzai (who fired him – AAN background here and here). Atmar is also a founding member of the Right and Justice party established in 2011 (AAN background here). His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Former vice-president Muhammad Yunus Qanuni, a Tajik from Panjshir, is senior Jamiat member. In 2001, Qanuni served as chief negotiator for the ‘Northern Alliance’ delegation at the Bonn conference.  He was a candidate in the 2004 presidential election, ranking second. He also served as speaker of Wolesi Jirga from 2005 to 2010, MP from Kabul from 2010, and as first vice-president following the death of Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim in March 2014 (AAN background here) till October of the same year.
  • Muhammad Mohaqeq, the second deputy to Chief Executive Abdullah, and the leader of Hazara-dominated Hezb-e Wahdat-e Mardom-e Afghanistan. Mohaqeq served as a vice-president and the minister of planning in Karzai’s interim government, and was a candidate in the 2004 presidential elections, ranking third. He was a two-term MP from Kabul (2005-10 and 2010-14 when he resigned to join Abdullah’s ticket as second running-mate). On 24 January, President Ghani issued a decree dismissing Mohaqeq from his position as the deputy chief executive, which he rejected as “illegal.” Chief Executive Abdullah, who had nominated him, called the dismissal as “totally in contradiction with the spirit of the political agreement founding the National Unity Government,” saying that the government would continue to serve till the next presidential elections are held and “the next legitimate government is formed.”
  • Like Ghani, Atmar has also picked a third, informal running-mate, Alem Sa’i, an Uzbek and a former governor of Jawzjan. He is a member of the anti-Dostum New Jombesh party, which declared its existence in June 2017 (AAN background here).

Wahdat, Shafafiat wa Etedal (Unity, Transparency and Moderation) team led by Dr Zalmai Rasul, a Pashtun born in Kabul, but originally from Kandahar, who is a medical doctor, and served as minister of transport and civil aviation, minister of foreign affairs, and national security adviser to former President Karzai. Before 2001, he was the chief of staff of former King Muhammad Zaher Shah in his exile in Rome. Rassul, with Ahmad Zia Massud and Habiba Sarabi as running-mates, also ran in the 2014 presidential elections (see here), and ranked third in the first round. His first and second running-mates are respectively:

  • Abdul Jabbar Taqwa, a Tajik from Farkhar district of Takhar, who was a member of Jamiat-e Islami during mujahedin (diplomatic sources) and has served as a governor of Parwan, Takhar and Kabul (see his biography here)
  • Ghulam Ali Wahdat, a Hazara from Bamyan, who has served as a governor of Bamyan as well as in several positions within the ministry of interior, including provincial police chief in Bamyan, police chief of the 404th Maiwand zone in southern Afghanistan, deputy minister of interior (see here). He is the brother of MP Safura Elkhani. He competed for 2018 Wolesi Jirga elections and was sentenced to three years in prison for misusing his authority and, as of October 2018, was said to be imprisoned, but still had the right to appeal (diplomatic sources).

Edited by Kate Clark


(1) Article 75 of the electoral law says:

  • In case a candidate withdraws from his/her candidacy, he/she is obliged to inform the Commission in writing prior to the date determined in the electoral calendar.
  • In case a candidate withdraws from his/her candidacy or dies after the date determined in the electoral calendar or if he/she is disqualified by the Complaints Commission, the votes related to him/her shall not be counted during the counting of the votes.
  • Only the deposit money of those candidates would be returned, who have withdrawn or died within the period of time determined in the electoral calendar.

(2) Article 76 of the electoral says:

  • The electoral campaign period for candidates shall be determined in the following order: 1 Presidential election, 60 days. 2 Wolesi Jirga elections, 20 days 3 Provincial council elections, 20 days. 4 District council elections, 15 days. 5 Village council elections, 7 days. 6 Mayoral and municipal council elections, 20 days.
  •  The period mentioned in clause (1) of this article ends 48 hours before the start of the Election Day.
  •  The method of electoral campaigns will be regulated through a separate procedure.

(3) The electoral law does not specify the upper limit of campaign expenses. Article 77 merely refers this issue to procedures to be enacted by the IEC, only saying that the number of eligible voters, area and geographical location of the constituency should be taken into consideration when setting the expenses limit. (3) In this case, It is an electoral violation to spend more than this (article 98, para 1, section 11). Perpetrators should pay in fines ten percent of their excess spending (para 2, section 6). The full text ofarticle 77 is as follows:

  • The limits for expenses by the candidates of Presidential, Wolesi Jirga, Provincial Councils, District Council, Village Council, Mayoral and Municipality Councils elections shall be determined taking into consideration the number of the persons eligible to vote, area and geographical location of the relevant electoral constituency, in accordance with procedures enacted by the Commission.
  • The candidates for the elected seats referred to in paragraph (1) of this article shall be obliged to accurately report to the Commission on their funding sources and limits and areas of expenses in their electoral campaigns.
  • The candidates referred to in paragraph (1) of this article may not accept or receive financial assistances from foreign citizens or states and/or diplomatic missions of the foreign countries based in Afghanistan.

(4) Article 98 (para 1, section 5,) says, “refraining from timely reporting or providing false reports regarding financial affairs of electoral campaign” is an electoral violation, the perpetrators of which (para 2, section 4) should pay a cash fine of 10,000 up to 30,000 afghanis (125 to 375 USD) based on the circumstances. Receiving funding from illegal sources and financial assistance in cash and in kind are electoral crimes (article 99, para 1, sections 6 and 7), with a punishment of a ‘medium term’ of imprisonment, ie up to three years (para 2, section 4).

Other relevant electoral violations are:

  • Use of symbol and other signs related to the Commission and government institutions in the campaign materials is a violation (para 1, section 3), the petrators of which pay a cash fine of five thousand (5,000) up to fifty thousand (50,000) afghanis based on the circumstances (para 2, section 2);
  • Provoking or inciting individuals to commit violations is a violation (para 1, section 4), the perpetrators shoud pay a cash fine of 40,000 up to 80,000 afghanis based on the circumstances and all votes of the relevant candidate should be invalidated in the relevant polling centres and stations (para 2, section 3).
  • Destroying the campaign materials of other candidates is a violation (para 1, section 6), the petrators of which should pay cash fine of 10,000 up to30,000 afghanis (para 2, section 4)
  • Conduct of any campaigns in favour or against a candidate by a government employee is a violation (para 1, section 13) with a cash fine of cash fine of 10,000 afghanis (para 2, section 7)
  • Use of government’s assets, facilities and resources in electoral campaigns (para 1, section 31), the perpetrators of which should pay  an amount of 50,000 up to 80,000 afghanis, based on the level of violation (para 2, section 15).

(5) Statement from the Election Support Group (ESG) on the 28 September Presidential Election

The Election Support Group (ESG) comprises the key donors– the European Union, the Governments of Australia, Sweden (on behalf of the Nordic plus), Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States of America – as well as NATO and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). It is chaired by UNAMA and convenes on a weekly basis.

19 July 2019 – In the context of the preparation for the 28 September ballot, Ambassadors of EU, Germany, Japan, UK, US and UNAMA, on behalf of the Election Support Group (ESG), met with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to discuss the role of the two leaders in building public trust and confidence in the presidential election process. The Ambassadors welcomed the Government of Afghanistan’s commitment to finance a significant portion of the election budget, which reflects its commitment to Afghan ownership and sustainability of the electoral process.

The Ambassadors welcomed the stated commitment of both leaders to a credible election and appreciated the two presidential decrees issued in February regarding non-interference of Government officials and security forces. However, the Ambassadors noted the public concerns about maintaining a level playing field amongst all candidates and stakeholders as well as the fundamental fairness requirement to maintain the independence of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). The ESG takes allegations of abuse of authority seriously and believes such accusations – whether real or perceived – warrant attention by the NUG leaders in order to reassure all candidates, the people of Afghanistan and its international partners, that the principles of fair competition, will be respected.

In this regard, the Ambassadors called on the President and the Chief Executive to publicly explain concrete measures being taken to ensure that Government officials (at all levels) and state resources are not used to advantage or disadvantage any particular candidate; and to guarantee that the IEC and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) will be given complete autonomy/independence in the management of the electoral process.

As candidates in positions of authority, both leaders have a special responsibility to clearly distinguish between their role as Government officials and as presidential candidates. Both leaders should not only conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the Election law and Code of Conduct they signed, but to also set an example for other candidates. In this respect, the ESG also encouraged NUG officials who have a role in the election campaigns of both leaders to publicly and formally step aside from their positions for the duration of the election campaign.

The Election Support Group will continue to closely monitor developments.

(6) On 19 July, the press office of Second Vice-President Danesh announced that four people had been appointed as advisers to him on 16 July. They are:

  • Nader Eshani, son of Muhammad Hussain
  • Abul Qasem Khadri, son of Muhammad Hashem
  • Muhammad Sadeq, Ali Yawar son of Ali Bakhsh
  • Dr Ahmad Jawid Alemi

(7) Statement by the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission regarding the premature 2019 presidential election campaign

The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has received claims about the start of premature election campaign by some presidential candidates, which contravenes the electoral law.

The ECC is reviewing the complaints regarding the launch of premature campaign filed with the ECC by the people and media reports.

The ECC reminds all the candidates, political parties and all countrymen that based on paragraph one of article 76 of the electoral law, the election campaign period for presidential candidates is 60 days. Therefore, based on section 10 of paragraph one of article 98 of the law, conducting election campaign before or after the specified period is an electoral violation. The ECC seriously advises all the presidential candidates to avoid holding any gatherings, premature campaign, negative competitions and activities of campaign nature for the purpose of election campaign.

Also according to paragraph one of article 90 of the electoral law, the central and provincial ECCs can examine the election campaigns within their authorities and duties.

Thereby all countrymen are requested to inform the ECC when they observe any premature campaign by the presidential candidates so that the violators are treated legally.

In view of the articles of the law referred to, political parties and candidates should bear in mind that the premature campaign will be penalised with warning, depriving from part or all election campaign period and depriving of participation in the election or cash fine considering the level of violations. The ECC is the only legal and safe authority for addressing electoral complaints and objections.

(8) The Ministry of Justice’s website is currently showing 74 registered political parties, but only a fraction of those are influential.

(9) Early January 2019, Ariana News obtained Qanuni’s audio conversation in which he had said that the presidency could not be won by “us [Tajiks/Jamiat]”, blamed Salahuddin Rabbani for making a deal with Abdullah who, he said, wanted to retain the post of the chief executive. Qanuni had also said that Atmar, unlike Ghani, agreed to changing the current presidential system structure and that it was only Atmar who could “oust Ghani from the Arg [presidential palace].” On 8 January, Qanuni released a video message on his Facebook saying that the audio of his telephone conversation with “a friend abroad” had been leaked to the media “against all the moral norms.” He confirmed the content of the conversation about changing the political structure.






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Ali Yawar Adili

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