KABUL— Elections for a new president to replace Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan are six months away and the battle for power in the country is heating up. Regional analysts say that powerful political alliances are beginning to form, and the result of the vote will determine whether Afghanistan moves forward or stays mired in long-term conflict.
After decades of war and corruption, Afghanistan is a poor country. The hope is that the April 2014 presidential election will change all that, says Noor Agha.
“We are all tired of war. The next president should work toward peace and improve our lives,” Agha said.
Hamidullah Farooqi, a former transportation minister now part of a political coalition of technocrats, warns of the dangers of a failed election.
“It will be a disaster,…a huge problem on Afghanistan because all eyes are looking to that election,” he said.
Voter registration is underway. Workers say the turnout has been high. But it’s still not clear who the candidates are.
The Afghan presidency holds immense power.
Political analyst Kate Clark says as a result, leaders are cutting political deals to win votes.
“You have to do deals. And none of it, pretty well none of it, is ideological. None of it’s party-based, none of it’s ideological," she said. "It’s pretty well all about interests, and pretty much trying to judge who’s on the winning ticket.”
It is a contest between the ethnic politics of the past, a continuation of the status quo, or a government of consensus, says former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Then there is the Taliban, and what it decides to do.
“So they have three options: one, intensify the violence, and further polarize a society; two, allow the election to take place so that the issue of peace and enduring peace can really be debated, and we arrive at a consensus; and three, more remotely, participate in the elections,” he said.
But voter Nasir Ahmad Ramyar, with the group Afghans for Progressive Thinking, says this time, the real power is the ballot.
“People know their rights, people know that voting will change their life, people know voting is something they have to do,” Ramyar said.