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DEMOCRACY Afghan elections may be delayed 2 months



Published: Fri, January 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Technical problems could push back parliamentary elections scheduled for May.

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) -- Afghanistan's dramatic march to democracy hit a potential speed bump, with the foreign minister saying Thursday that crucial parliamentary elections due in May might be delayed by as much as two months.

Foreign Minister Abdullah said the technical challenges of organizing the vote are to blame for the possible delay, but that his people will understand and get behind the election.

"Even if it is not on time because of technical preparations, which are needed, it will be around one or two months from the original time, during summertime," Abdullah told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "This would be OK, and the people would accept that."

The foreign minister, who like many Afghans uses only one name, did not elaborate on what technical preparations could cause the delay.

The head of the Afghan Election Commission, Bismillah Bismil, said from Kabul that no decision had been taken on whether to delay the vote. "We only started our work two or three days ago and we have to study these problems carefully," Bismil said, adding that the picture should become clearer by next week.

Election success

Last year's presidential vote, which President Hamid Karzai won in a landslide, has been hailed as a success. Turnout was high and there was virtually no violence despite threats by Taliban insurgents to disrupt the process. The parliament vote is seen as a key next step in the country's move toward democracy after a quarter-century of war.

The legislative election requires more complex organization than the presidential vote because of the large number of candidates expected to take part, and because local politics is expected to spur more passion, and possibly more bloodshed.

Many observers have suspected legislative voting would be delayed because of the daunting task of organizing the vote, which is supposed to include ballots for district and provincial assemblies. But Abdullah's comments were the first acknowledgment from the government that a delay might be necessary. Some opponents of Karzai have said that delaying the parliamentary vote beyond a May 20 deadline would leave Karzai in the position of an elected dictator.

But Mohammed Mohaqeq, an ethnic Hazara chieftain who finished third in October's presidential vote and accused Karzai's supporters of fraud, said Thursday he did not have a problem with a short delay.




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