Afghanistan sets April 20 as date for next presidential election

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Kabul: Afghanistan today announced April 20 next year as the date for its presidential election, amid concerns that growing insurgent violence could threaten the poll.

The vote will take place six months after parliamentary elections, which have been scheduled for October 20 after repeated delays.

Current President Ashraf Ghani is widely expected to stand for another five-year term.

The date was announced by Abdul Badi Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission, who said security and other factors had been taken into account.

The commission says nine million voters, including three million women, have registered since the electoral rolls opened in April despite attacks on voter registration centres.

Security remains a major concern ahead of the polls, with the Western-backed government struggling against an insurgency by the resurgent Taliban and, increasingly, the Islamic State group.

“Security is an issue that we hope will be solved by then,” said election commission spokesman Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi.

He responded to concerns of voter fraud by saying the commission was “committed to ensuring the transparency and integrity of both parliamentary and presidential elections”.

The last presidential election in 2014 was marred by allegations of massive fraud and vote-rigging. The two top contenders, Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, both claimed victory.

It took months for the candidates to agree on a US-brokered deal to form a “national unity government” in which Ghani was sworn in as president while Abdullah took up the newly created post of chief executive.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed the poll announcement Wednesday, calling it “an important moment for democracy in Afghanistan”.

In a statement its chief Tadamichi Yamamoto urged “all parties to perform their respective roles in order to ensure necessary timelines and conditions are met for credible presidential elections”. (AFP)