KABUL May 22 The two candidates left in the
race to become president of Afghanistan began campaigning on
Thursday, with the run-off between former opposition leader
Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani set
for June 14.
The election went to a second round as none of the eight
candidates who contested the initial vote on April 5 secured
more than 50 percent of the vote.
Abdullah and Ghani both held rallies on Thursday in the
capital Kabul, while the Ministry of Interior held a conference
to reassure the public over security, as the country enters the
summer months when the Taliban insurgency is usually most
The winner will take charge at a crucial time with most
foreign troops due to withdraw by the end of the year, and an
agreement with Washington permitting some U.S. forces to stay
still hanging in the balance.
Abdullah, a former leader in the anti-Taliban Northern
Alliance, led first round results by a near 14 point margin
winning 45 percent of the vote, according to final results
released last week.
Former finance minister Ghani scored 31.6 percent, but
stands to gain a portion of the ethnic Pashtun vote that
splintered between candidates in the first round. Abdullah is
more closely identified with the Tajik community.
Below is a timeline of key events and brief biographies of
the two contenders:
May 22 : Run-off campaign period begins
June 11: Campaign period ends
June 14: Election day
July 2 : Preliminary results announced
July 16: Complaints body submits final report
July 22: Final results announced
A former ophthalmologist-turned-fighter of Soviet forces in
the 1980s, Abdullah dropped out of a run-off against Hamid
Karzai in the 2009 election, citing concerns about mass
An adviser to the assassinated Northern Alliance guerrilla
leader Ahmad Shah Masood, Abdullah was appointed foreign
minister in Karzai's first government after the Taliban were
ousted in 2001, before abruptly leaving his post in 2005.
Abdullah's support base lies in the Tajik community,
Afghanistan's second largest ethnic group, although he is
As a young man, Abdullah studied medicine at Kabul
University and worked as an ophthalmologist until 1985.
A year later he joined the Panjshir Resistance Front against
the Soviets and served as an adviser to Masood, a national hero
for many Afghans.
Abdullah was foreign minister of the United Front - better
known internationally as the Northern Alliance - from 1998 and,
after Masood's assassination in 2001, became a leading figure in
the alliance that helped U.S. forces topple the Taliban.
ASHRAF GHANI AHMADZAI
The American-trained anthropologist returned to Afghanistan
after the Taliban were ousted and held various government posts,
including finance minister. He won about four percent of the
vote in the last presidential election in 2009.
One of Afghanistan's best-known intellectuals, Ghani spent
almost a quarter of century abroad during the tumultuous decades
of Soviet rule, civil war and the Taliban regime.
During that period he worked as an academic in the United
States and Denmark, and with the World Bank and the United
Nations across East and South Asia.
Within months of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United
States, Ghani resigned from his international posts and returned
to Afghanistan to become a senior adviser to Karzai.
Ghani is among the strongest backers of a crucial bilateral
security deal to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014,
which Karzai has refused to endorse. Ghani has said he would
sign it swiftly if elected.
A Pashtun belonging to Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group,
Ghani has defended his decision to pick Abdul Rashid Dostum, a
controversial former warlord from the minority ethnic Uzbek
community, as a running mate.
"The ticket is a realistic balance between forces that have
been produced in the last 30 years and have a base in this
society," Ghani told Reuters.
(Reporting by Kabul newsroom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)