AFGHAN POLITICIANS WANT ELECTIONS DELAYED TWO YEARS
By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, July 12, 2004
PARIS, 12 July (IPS) As the Afghan electoral Commission separated the presidential elections from the legislative races, Afghan analysts and politicians expressed resentment, saying time is not yet ready for any kind of elections before at least two years time.
The Commission decided to keep the presidential elections on 9 October, but delayed the legislative vote until next April. Under the Afghan constitution presidential and parliamentary polls were to be held as close together as possible. The announcement ends weeks of haggling over the date for elections, which were originally due to take place simultaneously in June.
As it goes, the presidential election is tailor-made for Hamed Karzai, one analyst said, referring to the present American-backed and installed Afghan Prime Minister.
Mr. Karzai, who belongs to the majority Pashtun tribe, was nominated by representative of Afghanistans ethnics and provinces, including powerful commanders who had gathered in Bonn, Germany, late 2001 after the ruling Taleban regime had been booted out by American forces.
He was latter confirmed by an extraordinary Loya Jirga, or a national council of the elders. His mandate has already expired and the elections have been delayed twice, missing June and September deadlines.
All the dates for the elections have been decided too hastily. Time is not ready for such events in Afghanistan, because of the generalised atmosphere of insecurity, because that except the capital, other areas of the nation are outside the control of the government, because people are not yet disarmed and there are no proper system for communications, Seyyed Pir Eshaq Gilani, a candidate to the president elections pointed out.
Several prominent Afghan politicians and political parties and five candidates sent a joint letter to the United Nations General Secretary calling for the delay in the elections for at least two years, citing the lack of security, continuation of fighting in several areas and also the absence of equal opportunities for other candidates except Mr. Karzai.
However, the United States backed the decision to hold presidential polls in October, calling it a "milestone" on the road to constitutional and representative government.
Zakim Shah, Head of Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body, said it would have a "negative effect on public opinion" if the vote did not happen in October.
But the presidential mandate will be only partial because voter registration has proceeded slowly, especially in the south and southeast of the country, where insurgency by Taleban and Al-Qaeda remnants has stymied the process.
So far 6.5 million of Afghanistan's estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have registered to vote but in 19 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces less than 50 percent of population have so far put their names on electoral lists.
Afghanistan's October presidential polls are a democratic milestone, but to give the country real grass-roots democracy authorities must disarm regional warlords and stem surging violence ahead of next year's parliamentary vote, Mr. Torab Mostowfi, an Iranian journalist who covers Afghan affairs told Iran Press Service.
Election officials said Friday that the already-delayed parliamentary vote would be put off again until April to allow more time for voter registration, the disarming of militia and the strengthening of Afghan security forces.
"It's encouraging that there is the prospect of the people of Afghanistan going towards polling in the time which was promised, the Afghan month of Mizan", presidential spokesman Jawad Ludin told the French news agency AFP.
Remnants of the ousted Taleban regime have threatened to disturb the polls and have attempted to intimidate people, mostly women, into not registering and in two recent attacks, gunmen killed 16 men carrying registration cards at a roadblock in Oruzgan province.
Some 6.5 million people of an estimated 9.8 million eligible have enrolled to vote, although participation has been notably lower in the southern regions.
Election officials stressed that the coming months can be used to improve the security situation and called on the government and the international community to "continue and intensify.... their efforts to strengthen the national army and the national police, and to achieve broader disarmament".
Mr Karzai is expected to win another term as president, though some political analysts in Kabul think the poll may go to a second round as up to a dozen rivals split the vote.
Candidates now have until the last week of July to announce their intention to run formally, which they must do 75 days before the election.
Mr. Latif Pedram, a candidate from the Afghanistans National Congress (ANC) said although he also think that conditions are not ripe for elections, yet, considering the situation, the ANC backs the dates for the presidential election.
Both Mr. Pedram and Gilani said with all the governments huge possibilities of all kinds to his service, Karzai looks certain of winning the race.
They also said that the reason Washington also presses for keeping the Afghan presidential election on 9 October is to allow the American president George W. Bush presenting the Afghan elections as a major victory for himself, as a man who has restored democracy and freedom to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Americans say they want restore freedom and democracy in Afghanistan. But that is not enough. All we hope is that they continue helping us fighting the Taleban and terrorism, reconstructing the war-ravaged nation, but do not interfere in our affairs, letting us to decide on our own government, Mr. Gilani told the Persian service of Radio France |International.
ENDS AFGHAN ELECTIONS 12704
Police in historic Iranian city ban improperly veiled women from public
TEHRAN, July 11 (AFP) - Police in Iran's historic city of Isfahan have banned women who are improperly veiled from public places and performances of live music, police said Sunday.
"Badly covered women are banned from entering public places," said a statement by the Isfahan police, carried by the official IRNA news agency.
Police have also banned the playing of live music in reception halls and at public events, although recorded vocals-free music authorized by the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, is allowed.
Neither can unauthorized music be played in the cars, IRNA said.Last month, the Fars news agency said police were poised to launch a new crackdown on vice, targeting people disrespecting the Islamic dress code and shops selling skimpy clothing and other illegal goods such as banned CDs.
Police crackdowns on unIslamic dressers are common at the beginning of the scorching summer months, when many women defy the rules by sporting shorter, tighter and brighter coats and three-quarter length trousers.
All women living in Iran are forced to veil themselves from head to toe or risk arrest and prosecution.Western music is also censored and those selling foreign music need special permits, although millions of banned CDs and cassettes have been sold on the black market throughout the country in recent years.
July 11, 2004 - Salem Chalabi, head of the Baghdad tribunal charged with trying former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, will soon visit Tehran to hear Irans charges against Saddam, foreign ministry announced on Sunday. Iranian authorities have criticized the court for omitting Iraqs 1980 invasion of Iran and the eight-year war from the list of crimes for which Saddam will be tried.
Chalabi ... together with other judges of (Saddam's) case will come to Iran in future, foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said. Adding that Iran has already had constructive talks with members of Chalabis court. He said the visit will take place within the next ten days.
Iraqs prime minister Iyad Allawi was also expected in Tehran, Asefi said. Iran has called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces out of Iran, and has established good relations with Iraqs US-installed interim government.
A source in Allawi's office said he intended to visit Iraq's Arab neighbors and possibly also Iran and Turkey, but no dates had been set, according to Reuters.