More than 20 candidates have registered to take part in Afghanistan's presidential election scheduled for April.
The last day of the registration process, which has been marked by deals among regional strongmen, Western-trained technocrats, and tribal leaders in intense political maneuvering, was October 6.
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 journalist after registering, former Foreign Minister Rasul described the election as good sign for Afghanistan.
"Today we are witnessing a historic change. Afghan political leaders are coming to the election commission today with their visions and plans for the future governance of the country," Rasul said. "They all want to serve this country after getting elected by the people peacefully. This is a great positive achievement indeed."
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," Ghani said. "Every step we take forward should pave the way for the next three or four steps. We should not aim at taking one step forward and three steps backward."
Speaking to RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan on October 6, European Union's envoy in Afghanistan, Franz-Michael Mellbin, called on the country's leaders to promote stability ahead of April's key vote.
"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," Mellbin said. "And that they do not use the electoral campaign as an excuse to [create] problems for the overall process."
Mellbin added that while the elections will not be held without problems, they are better than any other alternative.
"There will not be perfect elections," Mellbin said. "I think everybody recognizes that. It is unfortunate. But this is also the reality and the alternative -- not to have elections -- is not a better one."
After vetting the nominees, the Afghan Independent Election Commission will issue a final list of candidates on November 16. The official election campaigning will begin in February.
With reporting by dpa and AP