Wide-Open Afghan Presidential Race Kicks Off
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Afghanistan's presidential race kicked off Monday as election authorities began accepting the nominations of would-be candidates, the start of a wide-open race whose winner will oversee the final phases of the withdrawal of US-led troops amid a relentless Taliban insurgency.
The election, set for April 5, will also mark the first transfer of power from incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who has in some form or shape led Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001. Karzai is barred from running for a third four-year term.
Candidates have until Oct. 6 to submit their names, along with a hefty fee and voter identification information of 100,000 people backing them. No major candidates are expected to submit their nominations until closer to the Oct. 6 deadline, part of a waiting game to see how the field shapes up, AP reported.
There are no clear favorites in the race, but speculation in recent days has focused on Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul. Rassoul is a former national security adviser with a medical degree who has tended to stay out of the limelight and could end up being a consensus candidate among some of the many political factions in this nation of 31 million.
Other potential candidates include: Abdullah Abdullah, an opposition leader who lost to Karzai in 2009; Ashraf Ghani, a well-known academic and former finance minister with a reputation as a technocrat who also lost the last election; Hanif Atmar, a former interior minister who has grown critical of Karzai; and Farooq Wardak, the education minister who is involved in efforts to pursue peace talks with Taliban insurgents.
Some speculation also has focused on Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, an influential lawmaker with a long history as a jihadist and allegations of past links to Arab militants including Osama bin Laden. He would likely be the most controversial candidate, at least among Afghanistan's foreign allies.