‘In Afghanistan eleven candidates are vying to win the next Presidency. Campaigning is now officially underway with posters and billboards up all around the country. The candidates have two months to win over the voters. Six thousand eight hundred polling booths are expected to open. Election day is 5 April (3 Feb 2014)’.
In the Guardian, Emma Graham-Harrison writes that the upcoming “election is the third presidential poll since the fall of the Taliban. It should pave the way for the country’s first-ever peaceful democratic transfer of power, because the constitution bars the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, from standing again. The fact that Afghanistan has never managed such a handover before is an indication of how fraught the process could be, even without the complication of a raging insurgency. Karzai has led the country since the fall of the Taliban. Initially he was appointed by a national assembly, but he went on to win two elections in his own right. The arrival of a new president after more than a decade will shake up the country’s tiny elite, although the shifts may not be dramatic if the winning candidate is Karzai’s brother or a close ally. Whoever wins, Karzai will still be living just a stone’s throw from the presidential palace, in a property requisitioned from the United Nations and currently under renovation. He is not expected to fade into retirement. The country’s last king was deposed in the early 1970s and only one of the men to lead the country since then has met a natural end. The macabre track record means Karzai will be keen to ensure the elections produce a successor who will not only respect him, but keep him alive. He has reportedly rejected the idea of disappearing to a quiet and luxurious exile, even though he would almost certainly find sponsors. Karzai is not the only fixture about to vanish from the Afghan political scene. Foreign troops, which have dominated life and politics for over a decade, will also be gone by the start of 2015. The new president will have to rely only on his own police and army to keep the Taliban at bay. If Karzai decides to sign a long-term security deal with the US, there will be a few thousand foreign soldiers still training the Afghan security forces and hunting international militants in the most lawless parts of the country. He is currently demanding further concessions from the US, and some diplomats have concluded he will not sign the deal. If he doesn’t, the future of relations between Afghanistan and the international community that pays for its government and army will hang on the election. Without the military deal, funding will probably be limited; the US has already halved its aid budget this year. And the collapse of the Soviet-backed government in 1992 was precipitated not by the departure of Soviet troops three years earlier but the abrupt halt funds that paid the army’s salaries”.
Graham-Harrison adds that “[e]leven candidates, 12 million voters, more than 6,000 polling centres – and a lot of headaches for the victor. But who are the men who would be Afghan president and what do they offer? . . . Abdullah Abdullah . . . Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai . . . Qayoum Karzai . . . Nader Naim . . . Zalmay Rassoul . . . Gul Agha Sherzai . . . [will be competing for the post] The election is in two rounds, similar to the French system. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the first round – which with 11 candidates is unlikely, unless someone reverts to massive fraud – a second round must be held pitting the top two candidates against each other. That means that although the poll is set for 5 April, the process could drag on for months. Getting the ballot papers back from far-flung stations and handling complaints is expected to take weeks, with a final result not due until mid-May. A second round would take at least six weeks more, probably longer. So even though the president, Hamid Karzai, is officially due to step down in May, many observers think the country will not get a new leader until July or August at the earliest. The election is run by the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Any grievances are handled by the Electoral Complaints Commission, which has already thrown out more than half the would-be presidential candidates for not meeting requirements”.
 Emma Graham-Harrison, “Afghanistan election guide: everything you need to know” The Guardian (03 Feb 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/afghanistan-election-guide-candidates-list,
 Emma Graham-Harrison, “Afghanistan election guide: everything you need to know”.