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Afghanistan: Campaign begins for key presidential polls

Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani showcased fast-track peace talks as his achievements in rally held in capital Kabul

Shadi Khan Saif   | 28.07.2019
Afghanistan: Campaign begins for key presidential polls

KABUL, Afghanistan

The official election campaign began on Sunday for the landmark presidential polls in Afghanistan, with the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and 17 other candidates running for the top post. 

Afghanistan’s capital Kabul saw a variety of posters, billboards and placards of the candidates emerging in the city as the official 60-day campaign started.

Addressing his maiden election rally, Ghani showcased the achievements of his five-year tenure in the National Unity Government. The main theme of his massive rally was the expedited efforts for peace talks with the Taliban.

“For the first time in 2014, I announced the unprecedented unconditional offer of peace talks to the Taliban. I call it unprecedented because the previous government had presented two conditions for negotiations with the Taliban, which were considered as major obstacles to the start of the peace process. But I have overcome these obstacles.” he said.

Ghani, a former World Bank economist, has entered the race to retain his power with the slogan of “State Builders”, and promising to complete the unfinished reform agenda. The 69-year-old has joined hands with his former critic Amrullah Saleh -- who has also served as a spy chief -- and Prof. Sarwar Danish.

Another front-runner, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah of the NUG -- Ghani’s power-sharing partner -- told a gathering in Kabul that the unity government has had both achievements and shortcomings.

“Unfortunately, during this (2014 - 2019) period there have been issues that have damaged the governance, Afghan politics, national unity, dignity and reputation of the Afghan people that you are aware of,” he said, referring to his differences with President Ghani.

Abdullah has managed to grab the symbolic support of his Jamiat-e-Islami party, but big guns of the party -- Atta Mohammad Noor, Yonus Qanooni, Ismail Khan and Bismillah Khan -- have already joined the bandwagon of another presidential candidate Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the former national security adviser.

Among the 18 candidates also include former Mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The proposed elections scheduled for Sept. 28 are overshadowed by the rejuvenated talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

As per the Independent Election Commission rules, the candidates can spent no more than AFN 442 million ($5.5 million) on their election campaign.

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