Afghan election likely to be delayed again

/ Source: The Associated Press

Historic Afghan elections scheduled for September will be delayed because of wrangling among officials and political parties, a senior government official said Thursday.

Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the country’s election management body, said the group would not be able to reach a decision by Friday, the deadline for setting a vote in September.

President Hamid Karzai had earlier insisted there should be no fresh delay in the country's first post-Taliban vote, already put back from June because of violence and tough logistics.

But a spokesman for the United Nations, which shares power in Afghanistan's electoral management body, suggested a delay was likely.

"There is indeed a debate," Manoel de Almeida e Silva said. "Of course, if the debate goes on, that will have an impact on the election date."

Snow could delay election further
Under Afghan law, polling day must be set 90 days in advance. That makes Friday the last chance to announce a Sept. 30 election, though some Afghan officials say the law is "flexible."

Some commission members have suggested that the vote will be in October -- the last month before villages in the Hindu Kush mountains can be cut off by snow.

So far, some 5.5 million Afghans have registered for the vote out of an estimated 9.5 million eligible, a total rising at about 120,000 every day.

Almeida e Silva said the results were "very impressive" in the light of a string of attacks blamed largely on Taliban rebels. Two female election voters and more than a dozen Afghans who had registered were killed last week.

Warlords still a concern
But he said the world body was still worried about the reluctance of warlords to give up their weapons and the need to protect political freedoms.

In March, Karzai used a vow to disarm 40,000 irregular fighters by end-June to win international pledges of billions in aid to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The move, along with a plan to collect thousands of heavy weapons, is an attempt to prevent militia leaders and drug lords from cementing their power through intimidation. But only 9,700 soldiers have given up their guns so far.

Almeida e Silva said U.N. officials "continue to attach the highest priority to DDR," which stands for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former soldiers.