Afghanistan to hold presidential elections on April 20, 2019

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The Afghan government says it will hold presidential elections on April 20, 2019, for the fourth time since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001, however, officials have warned much work needs to happen to meet that timeline.

During a televised news conference on Wednesday, election officials said the vote would take place six months after parliamentary and local elections scheduled for October 20, polls which have been marred by technical and organisational issues.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said security and funding, as well as the short timeframe between elections, would present the biggest challenges to the poll.

“Security is an issue that we hope will be solved by then,” IEC spokesman Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi said.

Almost 14 percent, or 56 of more than 400 districts, are fully controlled by the Taliban while another 30 percent are contested, according to figures published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

The IEC said it hoped as many as 15 million people will register for the polls, but the election commissioner admitted registration turnout so far had been low.

The last time Afghans went to the ballot box was in 2014, which produced no clear winner between the two main candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

Both candidates accused each other of massive voter fraud, leading to months of arguments.

Eventually, the United States brokered a deal, crafting a government of national unity, with Ghani becoming president and Abdullah taking the position of the newly created position of chief executive.

Peace with the Taliban?

In recent months, incumbent President Ghani has attempted to start peace talks with the Taliban, proposing a ceasefire and prisoner release. 


As part of the deal, Ghani has also suggested the Taliban take part in the official elections.

The Taliban, which has been fighting against the government since it was removed from power in 2001 by US-led forces, has demanded the withdrawal of foreign forces as a pre-condition for those peace talks.

The capital, which has been the site of relative calm, has seen an increase in bombings and other attacks since the Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive on April 25.

Fighting traditionally picks up in Afghanistan as warmer weather melts snow in mountain passes, allowing fighters to move around more easily.

Earlier this year both the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group killed dozens of people in an attempt to derail the elections.

Both groups have attacked several voter registration centres, including bombing and burning them.

According to the UN, a total of 1,692 people have been killed in the first half of 2018, with another 3,430 people wounded – the highest figure since it began keeping records in 2009.

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