Afghan Voting Postponed for 3 Months

Posted in Broader Middle East | 29-Mar-04 | Source: The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sunday, March 28 (AP) — Afghanistan's landmark national elections, which were scheduled for June, will be delayed until September, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.

Mr. Karzai said the delay was needed to allow the United Nations to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time.

"We are ready to manage both elections, for the Parliament and presidency, in September," Mr. Karzai said at a news conference at his palace in the Afghan capital.

Officials had warned repeatedly that the country's first post-Taliban elections might be delayed because of logistical problems and concerns about security.

So far, only 1.5 million of an estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have been registered for the elections, and it remains unclear how the United Nations intends to carry out a plan to register most of the others in May.

The Afghan government said Saturday that it would disarm 40,000 irregular Afghan militia soldiers in time for the elections to reduce the risk of voter intimidation.

But the United Nations, the military coalition led by the United States and the Afghan government are still working on plans to protect election workers from militants of the former Taliban leadership.

Agence France-Presse reported that Mr. Karzai acknowledged that Afghanistan had experienced serious factional fighting in the past week, during which the aviation minister, Mirwais Sadiq, was killed in the western city of Herat. But he said electoral officials had assured him that progress was being made in the polls.

News of the postponement came as Afghanistan prepared to ask the international community for further pledges of aid at a conference to take place in Berlin this week.