The independent Election Commission of Afghanistan has confirmed that the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on August 20, 2009. But a discussion is continuing about the constitutionality of President Karzai's wish to remain in office until the elections are held.
Hamid Karzai, right, with US envoy Richard Holbrooke
Hamid Karzai announced a few days ago that he wanted to stay in power until August -- or otherwise, he said, the elections had to be held in April. The opposition, for its part, insists that the constitution doesn't allow Karzai to remain in office after May. Nasrullah Stanekzai, a law professor at the University of Kabul, agrees: "I think that the constitution of Afghanistan has no solution for this problem. According to the constitution, Karzai's presidential term will expire on May 21."
Some of Karzai's opponents suggest that Karzai hand over power to an interim government till a new elected president takes office. But this again is not in accordance with constitution, says Prof. Stanekzai: "There is no such article in the constitution which could allow an interim government to govern the country in this situation."
Rostar Tarakai, a retired law professor, says that there are only two ways left for Karzai to remain in office till the elections: "The first solution is that the president announces a state of emergency according to the 143rd article of the Afghan constitution. After a period of two months the parliament could then extend the state of emergency for several more months. The second solution could be to convene the grand assembly of Afghan Elders called Loya Jirga, which has more power than the constitution."
A long list of potential challengers
The list of presidential candidates is not yet closed and it’s getting longer every day. The most well known faces among the candidates are those who served as ministers in the Karzai Administration: Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, foreign policy fellow at the US think tank Brookings Institution and former Afghan finance minister, former interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali who was an army colonel in the 1980s.
Others with presidential ambitions include former finance minister and head of the Afghan Social Democrat Party Anwarulhaq Ahadi, former foreign minister and Mujahedin leader of the Northern Alliance Abdullah Abdullah, and former Plan Minister Ramazan Bashardost.
US preference unclear
Fresh international troops to provide additional security for the elections are expected to arrive in Afghanistan by August. Meanwhile, it remains unclear which presidential candidate will get the possibly crucial support by the US, says Prof. Stanekzai: "It can't be said for sure if the US government will support Karzai or any other candidate. The fact is that the new US government has not seen eye to eye with Karzai and therefore it's difficult to make any predictions."
But US President Obama also hinted at the weekend that he was now in favour of holding talks with "moderate" Taliban in Afghanistan. As this has been Karzai's position for long, analysts believe this latest shift in US policy might well improve Karzai's chances of staying in office.