Boundary row delays Afghan polls

Afghan authorities have put off an expected announcement of the date for the country's first post-Taliban parliamentary polls amid a row over electoral boundaries.

    The Karzai government has been unable to fix a date for the polls

    President Hamid Karzai's cabinet discussed the issue, officials said, but failed to name a day for the vote, which has been repeatedly postponed for eight months by problems with politics, logistics and security.


    The latest delay centres on district borders for district elections, which were due to be held in tandem with provincial polls and the parliamentary vote, presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said in Kabul on Monday.


    The boundaries of "between 40 and 50 districts are disputed in 22 provinces and unless these disputes are resolved there cannot be district elections", Ludin said.


    However, there were signs the government may put the boundary row to one side, by proceeding with the parliamentary vote and then letting the newly elected assembly decide the issue.


    Original schedule


    "The electoral commission will have to decide if it wants parliamentary and provincial elections to be held first and later district elections," Ludin added.


    There are arguments on how best
    to ensure Afghan refugees vote

    Parliamentary polls were originally scheduled for June 2004 alongside Afghanistan's first presidential election, but both ballots were delayed.


    The presidential election was put back until October 2004 and the parliamentary poll pencilled in for the Afghan month of Saur, which ends on 21 May.


    But then the United Nations last week said that was no longer possible as the government had missed a deadline to announce the date 90 days in advance.


    Nato has already warned that if the vote is not held by the first week of July, it will have to be put off until September, because international peacekeepers cannot guarantee security during a change of command this summer.


    Credibility factor


    Ludin added that the government had urged the electoral commission to make its decision on the date soon but that political wrangles had to be settled first.


    "It is not only a question of when but a question
    of the credibility of
    the elections"

    Jawed Ludin,
    presidential spokesman

    "It is not only a question of when but a question of the credibility of the elections," he said.


    There are also arguments about how best to allow Afghan refugees abroad, mainly in Pakistan and Iran, and nomads to cast their ballots.


    A source close to the electoral commission said the decision could now be taken "in a matter of days".


    Afghanistan's parliament will comprise one-third district elected members, one-third provincial elected members and one-third presidential appointees.



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