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Afghanistan begins voter registration for presidential elections

By Abdul Haleem, Xinhua,

Kabul : Afghanistan’s Election Commission on Monday commenced voter registration for the upcoming presidential election amid increasing security incidents, a press release of the commission said.

The process of the newly launched voter registration, according to the press release, would be completed within four months in four phases.

“The first phase which began Monday would cover 14 relatively peaceful northern, central and eastern provinces,” said the press release.

“Voter registration is being conducted according to Article 33 of Afghanistan constitution. The citizens of Afghanistan shall have the right to elect and be elected,” it added.

An official at the election commission who did not want to be identified expects that over 9 million people would register during the four month process.

Those who completed 18 years old can register and use his or her franchise during the elections, the official added.

Afghanistan’s second presidential poll since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001 is going to be held in autumn 2009 while the first presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2004 and 2005 respectively after three decades of war and civil strife.

More than 11 million voters, according to the official, had registered during the first presidential elections, held four years ago.

The incumbent president Hamid Karzai had hinted to run for the second term, while rumors said that former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and ex-president Burhanudin Rabbani who is Member of Parliament currently would contest the upcoming polls.

However, a former planning minister and lawmaker Ramadan Bashardost and Latif Padram, a critic of President Hamid Karzai, have already announced their resolve to run for the next presidency.

Taliban militants, driven out of power in late 2001 and staged a bloody comeback in 2005 has refused to participate in the process, warning people to boycott it.

Reports reaching here said the anti-government militants have already begun campaigning against the polls and quoted Zekria Barakzai, deputy head of the Independent Election Commission, as saying that “militants were trying to stop people from registering themselves as voters already.”

Barakzai told media that militants asked local people not to vote or register themselves as voters on the occasion of preaching at mosques.

Meanwhile, some vehicles carrying the registration forms have been reportedly attacked and torched in the northeast.

Taliban-linked insurgency and conflicts have claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people including some 1,500 civilians so far this year in the war-torn country.