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Afghan Polls Not Possible In April, Election Body Rules


Afghan President Hamid Karzai
KABUL (Reuters) -- Presidential polls in Afghanistan can't be held next month as demanded by President Hamid Karzai, the elections commission has said, with August 20 to remain the polling day as the body originally set.

Karzai issued a decree at the weekend calling for the poll to be moved forward to April to comply with the constitution, a move seen as stirring up political turmoil at a time of increasing threat from a growing Taliban insurgency.

"Due to the weather, security, budgetary and technical problems that we have, the elections cannot be held on the basis of the presidential decree," said Azizullah Ludin, the head of government-appointed election commission.

The United States, Afghan opposition groups, and rival presidential contenders all back the original August date.

The constitution says the president's term ends on May 21 and polls must be held at least a month before that.

But rival leaders agreed with Karzai 11 months ago that it was impractical to hold an election in the spring because that would mean organizing it during the harsh Afghan winter.

But, when the polls were set for August 20, those same opposition leaders began to raise doubts about Karzai's legitimacy to remain in office after May 21.

Few think that polls can be organized in Afghanistan in little over a month, so Karzai's move effectively called the opposition's bluff.

His decree is aimed at forcing them to recognize his legitimacy after May 21 and allow him to retain the advantages of office while he goes on the election campaign.

Given the other factors and the commission's lack of preparedness for setting up polling stations in time, Ludin said the elections would have to be held on August 20.