Karzai denies delayed poll plea
December 03, 2013 - 8:59:06 am
KABUL: President Hamid Karzai denied yesterday that he had urged delaying the elections scheduled for April next year to avoid the heavy snow that could cut off access to some parts of the country, as asserted by the poll’s organisers.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) chairman had told parliament that Karzai suggested pushing back the elections to address concerns about snow blocking voters. Karzai’s spokesman however denied that changing the date had been discussed.
“The president will never interfere in the affairs of the election commission nor he would allow others to do so,” Aimal Faizi said.
The prospect of a delay was likely to worry the United States and critics of Karzai who fear he may be trying to drag out his second and final term.
Karzai is barred by the constitution from running for a third term and has so far refrained from backing any of the candidates, although he is widely expected to support his elder brother Qayum, seen as one of the front runners.
The president has also refused to sign a pact that would keep thousands of US troops in Afghanistan after next year when most international troops pull out. His assertion the deal should wait until after the elections has been taken by some as evidence of his reluctance to step out of the limelight.
“Regarding the weather, there have been concerns,” IEC chairman Yousof Nooristani told parliament’s upper house on Sunday. “Even the president has suggested we could make changes to this (the election date) because he received complaints from the people.”
“I told him we couldn’t because the date is set, based on the constitution and electoral law.”
But while electoral law states the date cannot be changed, one member of the IEC, appointed by Karzai’s administration to organise the vote, said it could be delayed if the weather threatened to exclude groups of voters.
“That is possible, but one thing is clear. We are trying not to say this... it is premature,” the commissioner told Reuters, asking to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to give statements to the press.
Critics at home and diplomats however have long feared that Karzai could use bad weather or poor security as a tool for pushing back the vote set to mark the first democratic transfer of power since the Taliban fell in 2001.
But the IEC’s spokesman said that neither the organisers nor the president had authority to change the date.