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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 11:39 GMT
Afghan poll 'likely in September'
By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

Afghan voters
Voter registration is one of the headaches facing organisers
Afghanistan's delayed parliamentary elections may now take place in September, according to people close to the process.

Several Afghan and international sources have told the BBC that election officials have proposed a new date of 17 September.

District elections supposed to happen at the same time may well be postponed.

Parliamentary elections were initially set for June 2004 but were postponed to October and then delayed again.

The September date has not yet been agreed but with so much preparation still needed, it is being seen as the earliest realistic timeframe.


The United Nations recently confirmed parliamentary polls would not take place as planned before 21 May, a date that corresponds to the end of the Afghan month of Saur.

In fact, it was stating what everyone had known for some time.

Under the terms of Afghanistan's electoral law, the earliest they could be held right now would be the end of June.

That is because the boundaries for voting districts - which must be finalised at least 120 days before polling day - have still to be announced.

Unresolved issues

The date for the parliamentary polls has continually slipped from the terms laid out in the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, covering the country's post-Taleban transition process.

Hamid Karzai
Presidential polls won by Karzai were held in October

Security concerns have been a major reason for the postponements, although presidential elections were successfully held last October.

Holding that vote was one thing, but arranging at least two local level votes - provincial and district elections are supposed to happen at the same time - with hundreds of potential candidates, is quite another.

Organisers have fallen far behind in preparing for so complicated a task.

Many key issues remain unresolved.

There are still disagreements on the number of districts, which is why electoral boundaries have still not been announced.

Ministry of interior officials say there are 365, others argue the figure is more like 420.

This issue could be shelved if district elections are postponed.

But that would open up another problem - setting up the planned upper house of parliament, or Meshrano Jirga.

A third of its members are supposed to be nominated by the district councils under the electoral law as it currently stands.

Ruled out

Election officials, who did not want to be named, say they also have to organise a new voter registration process - for Afghans who have returned home since the last poll and for those who have now reached the voting age of 18.

Karzai supporters
Karzai supporters want a system preventing large parliamentary blocs

Even the type of voting system has still to be finalised - President Hamid Karzai's supporters are pushing for a simple system that will prevent large party blocs.

Even if things speed up, August has been all but ruled out.

That is when command of the Nato-led peacekeeping force is due to changes hands. Its troops are seen as crucial to providing security for the polls.

Few analysts are critical of the likely postponement to the autumn.

"A delayed election is better than a bad election," says Andrew Wilder, director of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit.

But a further delay would encounter the fasting month of Ramadan and the first snows, which could slow the vote-counting process.

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