KABUL -- At least 13 former government figures and warlords have registered as candidates for Afghanistan's presidential election, just before the process was to close on October 6.
Observers say the process has been marked by deals among regional strongmen, Western-trained technocrats, and tribal leaders in what is described as intense political maneuvering.
Leading candidates include former Foreign Ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rasul, former Finance Ministers Ashraf Ghani and Anwarul Haq Ahadi, and former Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak. President Hamid Karzai's brother, Qayum Karzai, has also registered.
Other prominent candidates include Afghan Salafi leader Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf and the former governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, Gul Agha Sherzai.
Speaking to journalists after registering, Rasul described the election as a good sign for Afghanistan.
"Today we are witnessing a historic change," he said. "Afghan political leaders are coming to the election commission today with their visions and plans for the future governance of the country."
Ghani, a former World Bank official and academic, defended his alliance with the ethnic-Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. He called for stability and national unity.
"The people of Afghanistan today want a lasting change. But this change should be gradual, stable, and rational," he said. "Every step we take forward should pave the way for the next three or four steps."
Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on October 6, the European Union's envoy in Afghanistan, Franz-Michael Mellbin, called on the country's leaders to promote stability ahead of April's vote.
"[The] EU thinks it’s very important that all Afghan leaders, of course presidential candidates, but also religious leaders and local leaders, are responsible toward the elections. And that they do not use the electoral campaign as an excuse to [create] problems for the overall process," he said.
After vetting the nominees, the Afghan Independent Election Commission will issue a final list of candidates on November 16.
With reporting by Reuters