The UN expressed concern on Monday at the prospect of presidential elections in Afghanistan next month called by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and instead backed the previously planned August polls.
“An election before July would be, at least for security but mostly for logistical and technical reasons, very difficult to organize,” said Alain Le Roy, the under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations.
“That’s why when the Independent Electoral Commission announced Aug. 20 we supported it,” he said at a press conference.
NATO meanwhile, expressed doubt that there was sufficient security to ensure the safe conduct of elections in Afghanistan if polls are moved up to next month.
“Our concern is not the internal politics of the country. This is a sovereign country and they have not just the authority but also the structures in place to handle it,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.
“Our business is security and we are in the process of enhancing our capability for elections that, until now, the Afghan independent electoral commission had designated to be for August,” he said.
“We will be able to have more capability in Afghanistan to support an August election than we would if an earlier date would be chosen,” Appathurai said.
The polls are expected to be a key test of Karzai’s rule as well as US and NATO-led efforts to help stabilize Afghanistan and spread the rule of its weak central government across the country.
Those efforts have been undermined by a Taliban-led insurgency in southern and eastern regions.
On Saturday Karzai ordered the elections be held by next month to comply with an article of the constitution that says the vote must be held within 30 to 60 days before the end of the presidential term, which is on May 21.
“We consider it ... almost impossible to get credible elections in April,” Le Roy said. “At the same time, we understand there must be a consensus within the Afghans on the best constitutional way, or best way in conformity with the constitution.”
“We consider the debate is not closed. But our position is clear: we consider the date set was the right one,” he said.
The logistical problems facing officials to ready the country for election are largely administrative, he said.
Karzai has previously said he would stand for a second term, although he suggested recently he might reconsider.
Analysts have said an election next month could benefit Karzai as he would campaign while in office and with the protection of international forces if he chose to travel into dangerous areas.
It is to be only the second presidential vote in the country’s history and comes with Karzai under criticism for not being tough enough against corruption or being able to stop a downward spiral of insurgent violence.
An Afghan election watchdog on Monday accused Karzai of “interference” and threatening the legitimacy of the presidential ballot by attempting to move up the election.