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40 Candidates to Challenge Karzai in Afghan Election

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will have to defeat 40 candidates in upcoming elections if he wants to stay in power.

Afghan election officials released the final list of presidential candidates Saturday, and it includes two former members of Mr. Karzai's Cabinets - ex-Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The final list of presidential candidates for the August 20 election also includes two women.

President Karzai is seeking a second term in office with current Vice President Karim Khalili and former Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim as his two running mates.

A worsening Taliban insurgency and charges of government corruption have weakened Mr. Karzai's image at home and abroad. But so far, a strong challenger to his re-election bid has not emerged.

The president of Afghanistan's election commission was critical of many of the candidates on the final list, though he did not mention any names.

Azizullah Lodin told reporters Saturday that he thought many of the candidates should not be running for president because they lack education or any relevant experience. But he said he had not power to remove them.

The original list had 44 candidates but two were disqualified and one dropped out.

Mr. Karzai has led Afghanistan since the U.S.-backed invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001. He first won election in 2004.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.