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Afghanistan: Preliminary List Of Parliamentary Candidates Published

Afghanistan is moving forward on the next step toward democracy -- the creation of a parliament through elections scheduled for September. A preliminary list of candidates was published on 5 June. It includes former warlords, at least two high-ranking members of the ousted Taliban regime and some of the main rivals of Afghan President Hamid Karzai during last year's presidential election. Afghans have until 9 June to raise objections about any of the 2,800 names on the list. A commission of Afghan and UN officials will rule on the complaints and compile a final list of eligible candidates by the end of June.

Prague, 6 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The list of Afghans who have registered to be candidates for parliament is on display across Afghanistan this week.

Bissmillah Bissmil, the head of Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Board, says any Afghan has the right to raise complaints or objections against individuals on the list. They have until 9 June to do so.

"I think we have enough time. We have three more weeks [until the deadline to determine the final list of eligible candidates]," Bissmil said. "The people can bring their objections and their complaints to our offices [about individuals who have registered to be a candidate.] It is this week that we have published the names of all the [potential] candidates -- so that people can know who has declared their intention to run [and raise any objections they may have]."

Afghanistan's election law permits any Afghan to run for parliament as long as they do not have a criminal record or continue to maintain ties with armed forces. That includes ties to Taliban guerilla fighters as well as illegal factional militias. People with senior positions in the Afghan central government also must resign in order to run for parliament.

One of the most prominent names on the preliminary list of candidates is Yunus Qanooni. The ethnic Tajik former education and interior minister finished second to Hamid Karzai in last October's presidential vote.

Qanooni has formed a 12-party alliance that he says will try to make the new parliament a stronghold for a political opposition that holds Karzai's government to account.

The leading ethnic Hazara candidate in the presidential vote -- Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq -- also hopes to become a member of parliament.

Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani is another well-known name on the preliminary list of parliamentary candidates. Rabbani is an ethnic Tajik Islamic conservative who heads Jamiat-i-Islami -- or the Islamic Society of Afghanistan. That is the political wing of the former Northern Alliance faction from the Panshir Valley whose militia forces had been commanded by the late Ahmad Shah Masood.

Also on the list of potential candidates is Abdul Rabb Rasoul Sayyaf, a conservative ethnic Pashtun who fought against the Talbian regime and now supports Karzai.

The Taliban's former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, is one of at least two former Taliban officials who have registered to be parliamentary candidates.

Noticeably absent from the list are two prominent former militia commanders who fought on the side of U.S. troops in late 2001 against the Taliban and had been members of Karzai's transitional administration -- Mohammad Qasim Fahim and General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Noticeably absent from the list are two prominent former militia commanders who fought on the side of U.S. troops in late 2001 against the Taliban and had been members of Karzai's transitional administration.

Fahim took over command of Panshiri forces after Masood was assassinated on 9 September 2001. As the commander of the militia that moved into Kabul when the Taliban regime collapsed, Fahim had been the defense minister and a vice president in Karzai's transitional administration. He now is the most senior officer in the Afghan National Army with the rank of "marshall."

Dostum is an ethnic Uzbek former militia commander from northern Afghanistan who also fought against the Taliban as a member of the former Northern Alliance. Dostum also ran unsuccessfully against Karzai in the presidential election. He now holds a post in Karzai's cabinet as the chief of military staff.

Complaints about candidates on the preliminary list will be reviewed by a five-member Election Complaints Commission. Three members -- including commission chief Grant Kippen -- are from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. One commission member is from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission while the fifth member is from the Afghan Supreme Court.

Kippen, a Canadian who directed work in Afghanistan last year by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs during the run up to the presidential vote, notes that the legal powers of the new Election Complaint Commission cover many aspects of the upcoming parliamentary vote.

"We have as part of our legislative authority, the ability to sanction -- to have sanctioning powers," Kippen said. "This can take many different forms, including an order that remedial action be taken. We have the ability to impose a fine of up to 100,000 Afghanis. We can order a recount or repeat of the polling. Or strike a candidate from the candidates list. We also can prohibit a person from participating in the electoral administration."

The legislative elections were initially scheduled for June last year. But they were delayed because of slow preparations and the need to disarm warlords and militia commanders. There are still concerns that powerful local warlords may try to control the parliamentary vote by intimidating their opponents and voters.

Concerns about security also are on the rise following the killing on 3 June of an election worker in Tarin Kot, a town situated in the middle of a mountainous area that is still considered a stronghold for Taliban fighters.

"One of the election workers -- who was a public educator and was cooperating with us, and who belonged to an Afghan civic organization -- has been killed in Uruzgan province," said Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman for the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Board. "This is tragic news for the election office. And we condemn it. However, our workers all around the country are determined to continue their work."

Reports say the election worker was shot dead by a group of suspected militants as he was coming out of a mosque. He had been working on an electoral project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service contributed to this report; Ahmad Behzad in Kabul; Hashem Mohmand, Sultan Sarwar, and Arif OsmanzoI in Prague)