"First, there is the shortage of funds," Joint Electoral Management Body head Farooq Wardak said on Saturday.

"Second, we have security problems in some areas of the country and thirdly we want to have a legitimate, credible election which is acceptable for the nation and for the world''. 

Therefore we ''should have people registered from all over the country equally," he said.

At the moment registration is patchy. While more than three million Afghans of the estimated 10 million eligible have registered, the majority of these are from provincial capitals.

Afghans from the rural south and southeast, regions which have been hardest hit by the US-led war against terror in Afghanistan, account for less than a quarter of those applying to have their say in the country's first democratic elections.

Meanwhile, security is becoming a mounting concern and remnants of the Taliban have also threatened to disrupt the polls.

Attacks have taken place in areas previously considered free of insurgency such as the northeast and northwest.

Attacks on convoys involving UN and electoral staff have also increased.

Funding

Organisers are short of money to pay for the elections, which are being organised with assistance from the United Nations.

"The election cannot happen in September" 

Ghutai Khawrai,
spokeswoman,
Joint Electoral Management Body

The UN revealed last week that despite substantial pledges from the international community for the $101 million required to hold the elections, no money had been received in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials say $87 million would be needed by 1 July in order to ensure that ballot papers are delivered on time.

Before leaving for his trip to the United States however, President Hamid Karzai stressed that elections would go ahead as planned in September. "The date's set," he told reporters.

Analysts say the US, which is heading a military force of
20,000 hunting down anti-government fighters, is keen to see the polls held on time since it would boost Bush's electoral campaign as a foreign policy success story, given his problems in Iraq.

An official contacted at the presidential palace in Kabul was unable to comment on the date of the election but a spokesman travelling with Karzai said on Friday there would be no change to the poll plans despite the additional violence. "Elections must go on," Khaleeq Ahmad said.

Legal technicality

But officials and politicians might find that despite their best intentions, their biggest stumbling block will now be a legal technicality.

While the date for the joint presidential and parliamentary polls has not yet been set, September is now an impossible task, according to officials.

"The election cannot happen in September," Joint Electoral Management Body spokeswoman Ghutai Khawrai said, citing a failure to meet a new law that constituency boundaries must be certified four months before polls can be held.

Under the newly-passed law the government must give 120 days' notice of electoral boundaries before lower house elections can be held, but a presidential decree nominating the boundaries was only signed on June 5.
 

September or October, should
not make much difference

The earliest the elections can now be held is 3 October 2004.

"Since we plan to hold parliamentary and presidential elections at the same time it (the delay) is for both," she said.

UN electoral spokeswoman
Catarina Fabiansson confirmed that the earliest the elections for the lower house could be held was October 3.

Wardak said those striving to make the elections happen have now reached a "critical deadline" in terms of when the polls are held.

But whether ''it is September'', as originally announced by Karzai in late March, ''or the first week of October should not make much difference'', he said.