Voter registration for presidential poll begins in Afghanistan

October 6th, 2008 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Oct 6 (DPA) The Afghan government began voter registration Monday ahead of a presidential election slated for autumn 2009 despite the country’s worsening security situation as it battles a Taliban-led insurgency.The Independent Election Commission said it started the first phase of the registration process in 15 central and eastern provinces, adding that it would take up to four months to cover the country.

Nearly 13 million voters registered for the first time four years ago for democratic elections after 30 years of political turmoil. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2004 and 2005.

Election Commission officials said they expected about eight million people would register in the new campaign as those already with voting cards were not required to re-register.

“This process is only for those people who have lost their old voting cards or the refugees who have recently returned to the country as well as those who have turned 18 years old after the last election,” Zakaria Barekzai, commission spokesman, said.

Although the next poll is not scheduled for another year, many Afghan analysts said they fear the voting might be delayed because of mounting insecurity caused by Taliban militants and local warlords who still hold sway in rural areas.

The Taliban, which lost power in late 2001 in a US-led invasion, have staged a bloody insurgency to oust the Western-backed Afghan government and expel about 70,000 international forces from the country.

Their strongholds had been mainly in southern and eastern regions of the country, but the militants have now infiltrated into areas bordering Kabul and this year started to penetrate into relatively peaceful northern and western provinces.

With already more than 4,000 people killed in Taliban-led violence so far this year, officials fear that an election would be a challenging task for the Afghan government and its Western allies to organize.

President Hamid Karzai, who has held his post since the fall of the Taliban regime, has hinted recently that he intended to run for another term.

Other powerful figures likely to run the election include Mohammad Younus Qanooni, speaker of the lower house of parliament; Burhanuddin Rabani, former mujahedin president; and Ali Ahmad Jalali, former interior minister.

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