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Afghan Parliament Elections Postponed to September

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission says it is postponing the parliamentary elections because of a funding shortage and security concerns.

Election authorities in Afghanistan have postponed a parliamentary election due in May this year, because of funding and security concerns. The polls are now scheduled to be held on September 18.

Election officials have defended the decision to delay the polls, saying it will allow the country's Independent Election Commission to hold a transparent and fair election acceptable to all the Afghan people.

A spokesman for the Election Commission, Zekriya Barakzai, told reporters in Kabul the decision to push back the vote was made after thorough consultations with all the stake holders.

"The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan - due to problems and constraints to get the proper budget and also security concerns, logistic obstacles and also to improve the electoral procedures - (has) come to the conclusion that we will postpone the elections until September 18, 2010," Barakzai said.

Election authorities say they need around $120-million to hold the parliamentary polls in Afghanistan. The international community, they say, has promised to provide $50-million to support the budget, but the Independent Election Commission has yet to receive that money.

Afghanistan's Western allies spent more than $220-million on the presidential election in August. But the polls were marred by widespread irregularities and rigging to help President Hamid Karzai win a second term.

The controversial presidential polls have triggered international calls for transparent and fair legislative elections in Afghanistan. Donor nations have been reluctant to release further financial assistance to Afghanistan and insist the country must introduce reforms before holding another election.

Western diplomats in Afghanistan have welcomed the decision to push back the elections to September. They are hoping the move will provide enough time to implement the reforms to prevent a repeat of fraud that undermined President Karzai's re-election and his political credibility.

U.N officials in Kabul also have expressed confidence the decision to postpone the polls will allow Afghan authorities to prepare for the vote and to improve the electoral process.

Britain is hosting a major international conference on the future of Afghanistan Thursday (Jan. 28) in London. President Karzai is expected to announce policies his new government wants to pursue to improve economy, security and governance in Afghanistan. He is also due to unveil details of his plan to encourage Taliban insurgents to quit violence and join the political process aimed at rebuilding the war-torn nation.