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Afghanistan to hold presidential elections to define its future

April 05, 2014, 7:07 UTC+3 ABU DHABI
Some 12 million Afghans are expected to take part in the vote
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ABU DHABI, April 05, /ITAR-TASS/. Afghanistan will hold national presidential and municipal elections that will define the country’s future on Saturday.

According to Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor, the voting period may be extended if necessary. Some 12 million Afghans are expected to take part in the vote.

Afghanistan’s current president, Hamid Karzai, is not running in the elections as the constitution does not allow him to run for a third term of office.

Only three out of eight candidates have real chances for success. These are former foreign ministers Zalmai Rassoul and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. They are well known both in Afghanistan and beyond its borders as they held leading government posts for a long time.

According to experts, the new head of state will have to not only solve complicated problems but also to fight for survival. The problem of ensuring domestic security will become the key threat for the authorities and the country’s future. First and foremost, the president will have to finally define the prospects of the foreign military contingent’s stay on Afghan territory after 2014.

The three favorites said in an interview with the American TV company CNN published Wednesday that in case of victory in the upcoming elections they are ready to sign a security agreement with the United States that will enable them to continue bilateral strategic cooperation.

The second, no less important, issue is to build up relations with the Taliban. The Karzai administration tried to bring moderate leaders of the Afghan movement Taliban to its side, and even held talks with them in the United Arab Emirates in late January.

Reconciliation was then frustrated by a series of attacks on Afghanistan’s public organizations, as well as by murders of Taliban leaders on Pakistani territory. The leadership of extremists voiced its desire to frustrate the presidential elections at any cost and urged the population not to go to the polling stations for the sake of their own security.

This caused a negative reaction on the part of Kabul, which accused other states, first of all, Pakistan, of disrupting the peaceful dialogue.

Afghan law enforcement structures will require special attention against this backdrop. They will have to keep the situation in the country under control after the withdrawal of NATO troops at the end of this year.

The last two months of the election campaign showed that despite unprecedented security measures, the armed forces, the Interior Ministry and special services of Afghanistan cannot yet fully block the border with Pakistan and prevent large-scale terrorist attacks.

In the past two weeks alone, the well-guarded center of Kabul has seen a few notorious attacks by terrorists whose victims were tens of law enforcement officers and civilians, including foreigners.

Corruption at all levels of power is also one of the challenges of Afghan statehood. According to experts, a vast majority of foreign aid lands in the pockets of functionaries. Thus, a report by US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko published in January says directly that the US authorities cannot control distribution of funds being sent to Kabul or rule out their improper use.

Afghanistan holds leading positions in the field of drug production and trafficking. In the past year alone, areas sown with opium poppy grew 36 percent to a record 209,000 hectares. The current administration has so far failed to convince peasants to switch to growing food crops as this does not provide substantial profits in conditions of instability.

During debates, the candidates expressed their opinions on the ways to resolve the problems. Only the three favorites are believed to have sufficient resources to implement these plans. All three politicians are virtually equally supported by the electorate and are capable of heading the country in such complicated conditions.

In this connection, it can be said with great probability that none of the runners will be able to receive 50 percent plus one vote required to win the election in the first round. Afghanistan will likely be in for a second round scheduled for May 28. Two candidates will then fight for the top state post, and the winner will be defined by a simple majority of votes.

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