Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 15:38 UK

Afghan elections: The main candidates

There are more than 30 candidates running for the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan.

The candidates include some high-profile individuals as well as a large number of relatively unknown presidential hopefuls, ranging from pro-Taliban and pro-jihadi figures to former communists.

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

Afghanistan's incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, assumed leadership of the country in December 2001, when he was selected to lead the Afghan interim government after the fall of the Taliban.

Three years later, Mr Karzai won his first election, receiving more than 55% of the vote - almost 40% more than his nearest challenger.

As he runs for re-election, Mr Karzai is attempting to appeal to voters across ethnic groups and co-opt potential opponents.

Mr Karzai says he wants to expand on his government's achievements on social and economic issues. His campaign has highlighted recent developments in infrastructure and in the protection of human rights - particularly women's rights.

He has defended the presence of international troops in Afghanistan but has been critical of coalition air strikes that have caused heavy civilian casualties.

Abdullah Abdullah

Abdullah Abdullah

Abdullah Abdullah is the only one of the main candidates who is not contesting as an independent candidate. He is representing the main United National Front opposition alliance.

Mr Abdullah served as minister of foreign affairs in the interim administration of Afghanistan and held that position under Hamid Karzai until 2006. He was also a prominent resistance figure in the Soviet era.

He has pledged to fight corruption and continue fighting insurgent groups with the help of international troops.

He says he is open to negotiation with the Taliban and indeed with anyone willing to lay down their arms.

But he says the offer will not be extended to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the insurgent Afghan group Hezb-e Eslami.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

Mr Ghani, 60, is an independent candidate who played a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, primarily in his position as special adviser to the former UN secretary-general's special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

He also worked as the Afghan finance minister between 2002 and 2004, before he became chancellor of Kabul University. He has also been a leading scholar in anthropology and held senior positions in the World Bank.

He is an ethnic Pashtun born in Kabul. He attended the elite Habibia High School in Kabul before continuing his studies at the American University in Beirut, where he received his degree in 1973.

Mr Ghani has produced a document listing the key threats to progress in the country as: Al-Qaeda, the insurgency, narcotics, poor governance and corruption.

Ramazan Bashardost

Ramazan Bashardost is an outspoken member of parliament running as an independent candidate. During his career, he has cut an austere image and made statements supporting the poor which have had popular appeal.

Mr Bashardost is an ethnic Hazara and went to local schools before seeking refuge in Iran in 1978. He subsequently moved to Pakistan before studying diplomacy in France.

Ramazan Bashardost
Mr Bashardost has a reputation for being outspoken

In March 2004, he was appointed minister of planning but resigned that December in protest at the government's alleged inability to take action over 2,000 Afghan and international non governmental organisations (NGOs) outlawed by his ministry in Afghanistan.

This stand against the NGOs gained him popularity in Kabul and he stood successfully for the parliamentary elections in 2005.

Abdul Jabar Sabit

A former attorney general of Afghanistan and government legal adviser, he is reputed to have links with militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah
The candidates have all succeeded in attracting large crowds

A former government legal advisor, he spearheaded raids into Kabul's many restaurants and Chinese brothels. He also attempted to prohibit the sale of alcohol. Mr Sabit claimed he was waging a holy war against corruption.

He sacked and suspended many Afghan officials including provincial officials. His relations with President Karzai turned sour when he was accused of racketeering. He is now subject to a government-imposed travel ban.

Mullah Rocketi

His name translates roughly to "the destroyer of tanks" - a title he won as a skilled user of rocket-propelled grenades against Soviet tanks.

Mullah Rocketi served in the eastern city of Jalalabad under the Taliban, but opposed the Arab and al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan - which may explain why he never received any senior Taliban positions.

He was briefly jailed by the US government after the fall of Taliban and now serves as an MP from Zabul province in the the Afghan Parliament.

Mirwais Yasini

The deputy speaker of the lower house of the Afghan Parliament, Mr Yasini played a prominent role in resisting the Soviet invasion, and went on to oppose the Taliban from 1993 to 2001 as a social and political activist.

After the fall of the Taliban, he worked for the finance ministry in addition to several high-level political posts, including director general of the Counter Narcotics Department.

In 2005, Mr Yasini was elected to the lower house of parliament, becoming the leader of its largest parliamentary party.

Shahnawaz Tanai

Lt Gen Tanai is a former communist general and was chief of Afghanistan's army under the Soviet-backed Republic of Afghanistan during the 1980s.

Despite being a stalwart of the Communist regime, he attempted a coup against President Mohammad Najibullah, seeking refuge in Pakistan after it failed and allying himself with fundamentalist mujahideen fighter Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

He is currently the leader of the Afghanistan Peace Movement and has campaigned for a bigger political role for Pashtuns, former insurgent leaders and religious parties.

He has openly criticised US policies in Afghanistan.

Abdul Haseeb Aryan

When Mr Aryan ran against President Karzai in the last election, he scarcely received any votes. He then requested a ministerial position, and was appointed to a senior post within the police.

His common refrain is that most candidates are merely running in order to attain political privileges and fame.

Frozan Fana
Frozan Fana

One of two women competing in the election, Frozan Fana says that she wants to provide more jobs for women if she is elected.

She has defended herself against allegations made by conservatives that her photos should not be used as part of her campaign.

Shahla Atta

Shahla Atta has also portrayed herself as a champion of women's rights.

Her campaign slogan is "women make up half of of society". She says that wants to start work immediately on making life better for this "neglected 50% of the country".

President Karzai's running mates

Mohammad Qasim Fahim is from the northern Panjshir valley. He served as a key military commander to the Northern Alliance's slain commander, Ahmed Shah Masood. Prior to that he served with the communist regime in Kabul but switched sides.

There have been several assassination attempts against him because he is seen as an arch rival of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Abdul Karim Khalil is one of the main leaders of the Hizbi Wahdat party - a Shia group. Although he played a role in the war he is not seen as being politically influential.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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