Afghan politician Abdullah Abdullah signs a document as he registers his name for the upcoming presidential elections at Independent Election Commission in Kabul yesterday.
KABUL: Abdullah Abdullah, the suave former foreign minister who came second in Afghanistan’s fraud-tainted 2009 election, yesterday entered next year’s presidential race and backed peace talks with Taliban militants.
Abdullah pulled out of a second-round run-off in 2009 after collecting about 30 percent of the vote, allowing President Hamid Karzai to retain power in an election that was badly marred by cheating and violence.
“We will make sure that the people of Afghanistan have a fair election,” Abdullah told reporters as he arrived at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) offices here to register for the April 5 poll.
“We will open the doors of negotiation to all the opposition, including those who are fighting us,” he said in a speech afterwards, expressing support for the government’s attempts to seek a peace settlement with the Taliban.
International donors are pushing hard for a credible election next year after billions of dollars of development aid and 13 years of bloody fighting against the Islamist militants. Abdullah, a former eye surgeon, has remained bitter about his old rival Karzai since the 2009 poll.
He has previously alleged that the president, who is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term, is plotting to extend his time in office.
Abdullah He served as Karzai’s foreign minister from 2001 until he was sacked in 2006, and later became a leading figure in the fluid opposition groups against the president.
Abdullah, son of a Pashtun father from Kandahar and a Tajik mother, lacks a loyal voter base. But he could build a strong coalition of allies through his vice-presidential candidates —Mohammed Mohaqiq, a leader of the Hazara ethnic minority, and Mohammad Khan, deputy head of the pro-government Hezb-i-Islami faction.
Now aged 53, Abdullah remains in favour with many Western diplomats who admired his energetic campaigning and dignified conduct during the last election.