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Afghanistan Attempts to Curb Influence of Warlords in Elections - 2004-05-27


Afghanistan has approved a new election law, marking another step toward choosing its first elected government in two decades. The new regulations attempt to curb the influence of warlords in the coming vote.

Under Afghanistan's new election statutes, most government or military officials will not be allowed to run for elected office.

Afghan Justice Minister Abdul Rahim Karimi announced details of the new law Thursday evening.

He said the list of those barred from serving as candidates include any officials from the defense and interior ministries.

The move is aimed at locking out militia commanders, who were appointed by the transitional government to provide security for the country after the U.S.-led war in 2001 that ousted Afghanistan's former Taleban regime.

Many of the militia commanders have been accused of acting as warlords, running the territory under their control as independent mini-states.

The Afghan government, with the help of the United Nations, is currently seeking to disarm the militias and replace them with a national army and police force.

U.N. officials say some militia commanders, despite promising to disarm, are seeking to delay the process.

Some observers say the militia commanders hope to use their private armies to intimidate the voters and rig the election.

Abdul-Hakim Noorzai is a former high-ranking Afghan intelligence official and possible parliamentary candidate.

"I am 100 percent sure if there [are] no weapons in Afghanistan, these warlords don't have any chance," he stated. "But unfortunately, for the moment, they have money and guns."

In an apparent move to encourage the disarmament process, militia leaders who resign their commands within 75 days of the election will be allowed to run for office.

Under the international agreement that established Afghanistan's post-Taleban transitional government in 2001, national elections were slated to be held by June of this year.

But security problems across the country, including an armed insurgency by Taleban remnants and their allies, have prompted a postponement until September.

The election commission, whose members were appointed by the United Nations and transitional President Hamid Karzai, have yet to name a date for the election.

Under the new election law, the commission must announce the voting day at least three months in advance.

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