Thu, Jul 08, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Afghan legislative elections will be delayed by months

REUTERS , KABUL

Afghan parliamentary polls must be delayed on logistical grounds but the president can be elected as planned by mid-October, a government official quoted the country's electoral body as saying.

It told a Cabinet meeting under Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the polls would have to come two or six months after the presidential election, not at the same time as the Constitution had envisaged, the official said.

Security worries and slow voter registration have already forced a delay from last month.

Earlier, Karzai's spokesman said the UN-Afghan Joint Election Management Body convinced the government that a president could be chosen during the period of Mizan (Sept. 20 to Oct. 21).

This was "at the time and in the way it was planned, which makes us happy," spokesman Jawed Ludin told a press conference, adding that dates would probably be announced by yesterday.

On parliamentary polls, he said: "If we could not hold them at the same time because of some logistical problems, we could hold them a day, one week or one month later."

A government official who did not want to be identified said the body then told Cabinet the polls could not be held at the same time.

"On parliamentary elections, they said this was not possible given the state of the preparations and logistical problems. They suggested a number of options, including a delay of two months, or a delay of six months," the official said.

SLOW PROGRESS

The slow disarmament of factional militia forces has raised concerns about conditions for free and fair polls.

Analysts say pressure has come from the US to go ahead with the vote, as US President George W. Bush appears to hope for a foreign-policy success story from Afghanistan ahead of his November re-election bid to balance problems he has in Iraq.

Politicians and diplomats say powerful warlords want to use an early parliamentary vote to consolidate their positions.

The UN has said delaying elections beyond October could mean waiting until spring, given the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and then the onset of winter.

leeway

However, a Western diplomat said delegates to a national constitutional assembly that concluded earlier this year were selected in icy December, suggesting there was more leeway on timing.

Bush ally Karzai, widely expected to win the presidential poll, had said he wanted polls in September, but the election law requires 90 days' notice.

Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to derail elections they see as an exercise to consolidate the US-backed administration and have stepped up attacks in recent months.

Late on Monday, an Afghan election worker was shot in the leg in a raid by about 30 guerrillas on a voter registration office in Kandahar province.

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