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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Afghan poll delayed until September
Election poster
Only a fraction of the electorate has registered
Afghanistan's first post-Taleban elections have been postponed until September.

President Hamid Karzai announced the delay, saying that parliamentary and presidential elections would now be held at the same time.

The elections had been due to be held in June, according to the timetable established in late 2001.

But security concerns and delays in voter registration had led to concerns about the original timetable.

'No delay'

"We are ready to manage both elections - for the parliament and presidency - in September," President Karzai said on Sunday.

Mr Karzai announced the intended date, but denied this was a delay.

He argued that the United Nations, which is organising the elections, believes it is not possible to hold simultaneous polls for the presidency and parliament earlier than September.

In January, the UN teams responsible for drawing up voter lists had warned that parts of the country remained inaccessible, due to security problems.

President Karzai
The international community is fully aware of the need in Afghanistan to make it more secure for the Afghan people to have free and fair elections
Hamid Karzai
Only 1.5 million of an estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have so far been registered.

Besides, funding from the international community has been late to arrive.

Analysts warn that premature elections could bring more harm than good.

Large areas of the south and east of Afghanistan are considered too dangerous for the United Nations to work in and there are fears that the strength of local military commanders in many areas of the country may lead to the intimidation of voters, says the BBC's Crispin Thorold in Kabul.

"The international community is fully aware of the need in Afghanistan to make it more secure for the Afghan people to have free and fair elections," President Karzai said.

There have been calls for international peacekeepers, currently concentrated in the capital, Kabul, to be deployed throughout Afghanistan.

Under the Bonn accords, drawn up in late 2001, Afghanistan had been due to hold presidential elections in June, with parliamentary elections at a later date.

Violence

Some commentators say even a delayed September poll would be too early, because of Afghanistan's security problems.

Those concerns have risen with recent fighting between pro-government forces in the western city of Herat, which had been seen as one of the more stable parts of the country.

Women queue for supplies distributed by an aid organisation
The UN wants to encourage more women to register as voters
More than 200 people have died in recent violence around the country - including aid workers and government employees, as well as militants and foreign and Afghan soldiers.

The US is sending up to 2,000 more marines to step up the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda and Taleban leaders.

The troops will join about 12,000 US troops already in the country.

But many analysts believe it is the demands of another election that will ensure Afghans go to the polls this year - the US presidential election in November.

It is widely thought that President George W Bush and his advisers see the prospect of Afghans voting in their first ever election as a foreign policy success story which would help him in his bid for a second term in the White House, says the BBC's Andrew North.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Crispin Thorold
"Organising free and fair elections in Afghanistan is a Herculean task"



SEE ALSO:
US beefs up forces in Afghanistan
26 Mar 04  |  South Asia
Security could delay Afghan vote
18 Feb 04  |  South Asia
'Afghan poll delay likely' - UN
08 Jan 04  |  South Asia
Afghanistan's security nightmare
08 Jan 04  |  South Asia
Afghan city shaken by bomb blast
06 Dec 03  |  South Asia
Constitution: key points
04 Jan 04  |  South Asia


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