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Afghan Presidential Vote Delayed For Second Time, Until September

Hawa Alam Nuristani (file photo)

KABUL -- Afghanistan's presidential election has been postponed by more than two months to give the authorities more time to organize the ballot and fix the problems that occurred during the October parliamentary polls, the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) says.

IEC Chairwoman Hawa Alam Nuristani told reporters in Kabul on March 20 that the presidential election was now planned for September 28, together with the country's district-council elections and parliamentary polls in Ghazni Province.

Nuristani added that the IEC will only be able to organize the polls once the necessary funds have been provided by the stakeholders involved, including the Kabul government and the international community.

The presidential election was initially scheduled for April 20, then delayed until July 20.

Many observers had considered both dates unrealistic given that the IEC is still finalizing results of October's parliamentary elections, which Nuristani described as "the worst elections in the last 15 years."

These polls, which were held after months of delay, were marred by inefficiencies including absent electoral staff and missing voting materials.

The IEC said in a statement on March 20 that the vote had faced "numerous problems and challenges...therefore holding the elections based on the timelines previously announced is not possible."

It said the date for the polls were pushed back to September in order to "better implement the rule of election law, ensure transparency as well as voter registration."

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, who plans to seek reelection, said the government respected the IEC's decision and was "fully prepared to cooperate" with the commission.

The IEC was not fully staffed until the beginning of March. Previous members had been heavily criticized for the October polls.

Attacks have continued in Afghanistan despite stepped-up U.S. efforts to find a negotiated resolution of the 18-year war.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held several rounds of peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, but the Western-backed government in Kabul has been absent from the negotiations, with the militant group insisting it will not engage with a Western "puppet."

With reporting by Tolo News, AFP, and dpa