Taliban worries loom as Afghanistan prepares to vote for a president

Taliban worries loom as Afghanistan prepares to vote for a president
# 27 September 2019 17:38 (UTC +04:00)

Millions of Afghans are expected to brave the threat of militant attacks to vote in a presidential election on Saturday, hoping to prevent a repeat of a bitter, fraud-marred and ultimately unresolved poll in 2014, APA reports citing Reuters.

About a dozen candidates are in the fray for the presidency but the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive Abdullah Abdullah are the top contenders for the job at a time when Taliban insurgents have intensified attacks.

The 70-year-old Ghani and Abdullah, 59, have ruled through a fractured power-sharing arrangement since 2014, their forces fighting against the Taliban even as the rebels held peace talks with the United States that were later abandoned.

The Taliban hold more territory now than at any time since 2001 when their regime was overthrown by a U.S.-led invasion.

“People of Afghanistan will defend their free and fair votes. I know Afghans will protect democracy,” Ghani said at an election rally, adding the hardline Islamist group was unable to defeat the Afghan people’s inherent spirit of freedom and desire for progress.

However, more than 170 civilians have been killed and more than 300 wounded in attacks involving the Taliban in the run-up to the election.

“Stay away from polling stations on election day,” the Taliban warned in their latest statement.

To fight the militants, the country will deploy more than 100,000 members of the security forces, according to two senior security officials in Kabul.

The Afghan government allocated $90 million and international donors have given $59 million to conduct elections across 34 provinces, but hundreds of polling stations in schools and mosques are likely to remain closed following Taliban threats.

Ghani’s rival, Abdullah, has accused the president of abuse of power and using government resources in his election campaign.

Abdullah said he feared the outcome could be skewed by voter fraud and that would threaten the country’s unstable democracy.

“He (Ghani) has been a hurdle, an obstacle toward peace. This person is not suitable for the job,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

If there are “massively fraudulent elections, and somebody is announced as a winner, this will not be accepted,” he added.

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