Image: Afghan election officials put up posters.
Manish Swarup  /  AP
Afghan election officials put up vote participation posters at Baba Qushquar village, 25 miles northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.
updated 7/6/2004 7:22:54 AM ET 2004-07-06T11:22:54

President Hamid Karzai was meeting with Afghan and U.N. officials Tuesday to try to decide a date for the country’s oft-delayed national elections, and a decision was expected soon, his spokesman said.

A vote for president is expected by early October, despite the threat of Taliban attacks and intimidation by warlords. It had originally been rescheduled from June until September.

“We hope and expect that the Joint Electoral Management Body will announce the date of the election today or tomorrow,” Ludin said.

His boss, Karzai, is widely expected to win a five-year-term, though more than half a dozen challengers have said they will face him in the vote.

Ludin said members of the electoral board, half of which is made up of U.N. officials, joined a Cabinet meeting in Karzai’s Kabul palace on Tuesday morning.

Originally, voters were to elect a new parliament at the same time as they choose a president, but officials say that the two votes may be separated.

As the possibility of holding the elections in September has slipped, Afghan officials have begun to argue that holding the election in the ninth month of the country’s solar calendar, which runs from Sept.22-Oct. 21, would be sufficient.

Ludin said that so long as the election is held during that month — called Mizan — it would not technically constitute a second delay.

'Negotiations' over parliamentary vote
Even with the new schedule, Ludin said there would be “negotiations” about whether parliament can be elected at the same time. He declined to give details.

The parliamentary vote is considered far more complicated to organize because of the large number of candidates involved.

The elections are supposed to crown a two-and-a-half-year drive to stabilize the country after a U.S. bombing campaign drove the Taliban from power at the end of 2001.

But the United Nations and some observers are concerned that anti-Taliban warlords who allied with the United States will consolidate their grip on the country after a failed drive to disarm them.

More than six million Afghans have registered to vote so far, Ludin said, out of an estimated 10 million eligible, reaching the level that Karzai has said is enough for the vote to be credible.

Still, registration has not been evenly distributed across the country. Election teams have yet to enter some areas of the Pashtun-dominated south rocked by a series of Taliban attacks on election workers and voters.

In the latest reported incident, suspected Taliban attacked a school used as a voter registration site, shooting one worker in the leg.

About 30 gunmen opened fire late Monday evening at the school near Panjwai, 20 miles from Kandahar city, said Saleh Mohammed, the deputy chief of police.

Some 15 militia soldiers guarding the school returned fire, injuring several of the attackers and forcing them to flee, Mohammed said.

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