Afghan leader promises parliamentary election next year

Afghanistan`s President Ashraf Ghani pledged on Tuesday to hold promised parliamentary and district council elections next year, as he sought to calm growing political turmoil that has hindered his government`s fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Reuters| Last Updated: Dec 29, 2015, 20:05 PM IST
Afghan leader promises parliamentary election next year
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani

Kabul: Afghanistan`s President Ashraf Ghani pledged on Tuesday to hold promised parliamentary and district council elections next year, as he sought to calm growing political turmoil that has hindered his government`s fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Parliament`s five-year term was set to expire on June 22 this year, but elections due in April were postponed because of security fears and disagreement on how to ensure a fair vote after a bitterly disputed presidential election last year.

"Parliamentary and district council elections will be held between summer and autumn of the next year," said Ghani in a statement, adding that the exact dates would be for the Independent Elections Commission to announce.

If they go ahead as planned, the elections are likely to be held against a backdrop of sharply worsening security, with the Taliban set to build on its campaign this year which included the brief capture of the northern city of Kunduz.

Both Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory after last year`s presidential vote was marred by accusations of fraud. It took months for them to agree to a U.S.-brokered deal to form a unity government under Ghani.

Ghani issued a decree in June this year, extending parliament`s mandate until a vote could be held. The decision met with harsh criticism from many Afghans, who questioned whether the extension was legal.

Ghani and Abdullah agreed on a electoral reform as a condition for future elections but little progress has been made since rivals in unity government have long disagreed over who should lead the reform commission.

A new opposition council, set up earlier this month, has been pushing the government to hold the elections as well as a "Loya Jirga" council meeting of representatives from across the country to decide changes to the constitution.

Violence has been at its worst across Afghanistan, with more deaths on both sides of the conflict, as the Taliban has stepped up attacks on government forces since the departure of most foreign combat troops last year.

The militants` brief capture of Kunduz in September underlined the growing military capability they have developed since their hardline Islamist rule was overthrown by U.S.-led coalition forces in late 2001.

Ghani is hoping to revive peace talks with the Taliban in a bid to end 14 years war but with the Taliban showing little sign of seeking a return to the negotiating table, many Afghans fear violence and conflict will increase next year.