Prominent Afghan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah declared his candidacy on Tuesday for next year’s presidential election, a key vote that will help determine the success or failure of 12 years of U.S.-led military and political intervention.
Mr. Abdullah Abdullah was the runner up to President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 elections, dropping out just ahead of a runoff vote following allegations of massive fraud in the first round.
The April 5 vote will elect the President and provincial councils countrywide. They are considered critical in determining Afghanistan’s future following the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops at the end of 2014. U.S. and international donors have pledged more than $8 billion yearly in aid to keep Afghanistan’s military and economy running, including funds for development and infrastructure projects.
Many of those funds are tied to the Afghan government holding transparent and credible elections, something that is not certain in a country rife with patronage and corruption and a resilient Taliban insurgency that shows no signs of abating. The Taliban have asked people not to vote and do not recognise the election process.
A nation of 31 million, Afghanistan also has all the hallmarks of a narco-state and is the largest producer or raw opium in the world.
The elections will help determine if the billions spent by the United States and its allies since the American invasion on Oct. 7, 2001 to fight the Taliban, and later engage in a nation-building campaign, will have paid off, creating a country that will no longer harbour or export terrorism. The Afghan war has been one of the costliest in U.S. history and along with development aid spent here has cost its tax payers more than the Marshall plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
Mr. Abdullah (53) is a veteran politician from the Northern Alliance that helped overthrow the Taliban. He was the first prominent candidate to register ahead of an Oct. 6 deadline. Alliances among those groups are expected to generate coalitions that will vie for the powerful job of President. Mr. Karzai has not endorsed anyone yet and there are no clear favourites, but speculation in recent days has focused on two people he may favour. They are Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, who may wind up as a consensus candidate, and Mr. Karzai’s older brother Quayum who is a businessman and politician.
Mr. Abdullah, a Tajik, chose two other well-known politicians to fill his ballot and will run on his ticket as first and second vice presidents. They are Mohammad Khan, an engineer from the Pashtun ethnic group representing the Hezb-i-Islami political party and Haji Mohammad Muhaqiq, a member of the Afghan Parliament and a powerful ethnic Hazara leader who garnered over ten per cent of votes in the 2004 Presidential Elections. He had supported Mr. Karzai in 2009. — AP