Twenty-three candidates register for Afghan presidential race
Twenty-three candidates have registered to take part in Afghanistan's presidential election, scheduled for early April, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Sunday, dpa reported.
"Registration process for the presidential nominees officially ended today, October 6. The total number of people who registered is 23," said Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman for the IEC.
On Sunday alone, 14 candidates registered at the election commission headquarters, many arriving in armoured convoys with bodyguards and scores of supporters in tow.
A few hundred policemen were deployed at the building on the outskirts of Kabul for the process, which came on the eve of the 12th anniversary of US-led invasion.
President Hamid Karzai's brother, Qayyum Karzai, Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul and leading intellectual Ashraf Ghani, were among them.
"Peace, stability, good governance and fight against corruption is our main goal, which is also the hopes of our people," said Ghani.
Rassoul pledged to work to protect the achievements made in the past decade.
Karzai, who came to power after the Taliban was ousted in 2001, is stepping down after two terms. Presidents are permitted only two five-year terms under the constitution.
The all-male list of presidential candidates includes opposition leader and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who was defeated in a presidential run-off with Karzai in 2009.
It also includes Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, a jihadi leader with links to the deceased al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, and former government ministers, technocrats, businessmen and a television presenter.
Four women registered as running mates for the post of vice president.
Karzai has past that he will not endorse one single candidate.
Provincial council elections are to be held alongside the presidential poll, scheduled for April 5. Some 2,300 candidates, including 240 women, have registered for some 450 provincial council seats in Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
The election commission is to finalize the list of candidates on November 16, officials said.
The election ahead of the withdrawal of NATO-led international troops and the security transition, are the most important benchmarks in the war-torn country facing a Taliban insurgency.