November 26, 2018 / 8:27 AM / 19 days ago

Afghanistan considering delaying April presidential election

FILE PHOTO: A man walks in a desert during an election campaign in Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood/File Photo

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan authorities are considering postponing a presidential election scheduled for April 20 next year, officials said, following heavy criticism of the chaotic organization of parliamentary elections last month.

Kubra Rezaie, a spokeswoman at the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said an option was being considered in which the presidential election, along with already delayed parliamentary elections in the central province of Ghazni and district council elections could be delayed by three months.

“But we cannot say they will be postponed because this is something at an initial stage,” she said.

Last month’s parliamentary elections, which saw huge delays at polling stations across Afghanistan, came in for heavy criticism over problems ranging from incomplete voter lists to malfunctioning biometric voter verification equipment.

However, any delay to the presidential ballot could provoke strong opposition from political groups, many of which suspect President Ashraf Ghani of trying to engineer his own re-election.

The issue is complicated by diplomatic efforts to start peace talks with the Taliban, who have met U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad but who have refused to deal with the Afghan government, which they consider illegitimate.

The IEC has announced preliminary result for parliamentary elections in 10 of the 33 Afghan provinces where voting took place. The election was not held in Ghazni due to disputes over representation between different ethnic groups.

Results in the rest of the provinces have yet to be announced as recounting votes continues in some provinces, caused by the large number of complaints about fairness.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Robert Birsel

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