(RFE/RL) -- In a move likely to be welcomed in Western capitals, election authorities in Afghanistan have postponed that country's parliamentary elections until mid-September.
Officials said the voting, which had been due to take place in May, was delayed due to security concerns, logistical problems, and insufficient funds.
"Considering deficiencies in the budget, uncertainty about election security, logistical obstacles, and in order to better organize the process, we have decided to delay the polls in accordance with Afghanistan's election legislation," Fazal Ahmad Manawy, a senior official on Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, told a press conference in Kabul, according to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "Parliamentary elections will now take place on September 18, 2010."
Reports from Kabul say the decision is already being met with relief by foreign diplomats.
President Hamid Karzai had pressed for the parliamentary poll to be held in May. But most foreign officials favored a delay, eager to avoid a repeat of the fraud-tainted presidential election in August.
The presidential vote turned into a major embarrassment for Karzai and the international community, which had promoted the poll as a democracy test for the war-torn country.
Following weeks of electoral fraud claims and counterclaims, and the annulment of more than 1 million tainted ballots, Karzai and his main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, headed for a second round. But the runoff was canceled when Abdullah withdrew from the race in protest, clearing the way for Karzai to embark on a second term, albeit under a cloud.
There were concerns both inside and outside Afghanistan that another flawed vote could have further eroded support for Karzai's government as it tries to rally the country against a Taliban insurgency.
Many governments had expressed concerns that guarding polling stations in May would have detracted from the military surge involving more than 30,000 U.S. and foreign troops aimed at countering recent Taliban advances.
The Independent Election Commission gave no indication on whether its chairman, Azizullah Ludin, whose term expired on January 23, would be reappointed by Karzai.
Meanwhile, the Afghan president left Kabul today for a week of travel that will take him to Turkey and Germany ahead of an international conference in London scheduled for January 28. At that event, Afghan officials and international backers are due to discuss plans for bringing elements of the Taliban into the political process.
written by Jeremy Bransten based on Radio Free Afghanistan and wire reports