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  • Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani attend his election campaign rally in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani attend his election campaign rally in Kabul, Afghanistan. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 September 2019

The Taliban issued a statement on Aug. 6 warning Afghans to avoid "electoral offices, voting booths, rallies, and campaigns."

Although security and electoral fraud concerns may deter a lot of Afghans from heading to the polls​​​​, voters in Afghanistan are yet expected to cast their ballots Saturday and choose their next president​​​​​​ and the countries fate for the the next six years.

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'Afghan Election a Threat to Peace': Former President Karzai

Marking Afghanistan's fourth election since the removal of the Taliban government by a United States-coalition in 2001. According to Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) , some 9.5 million people aged 18 and older have registered to vote.

Yet the vote will be held in a critical political period for a country marred by bloody fights between armed groups and government forces, that lead to a record surge in the number of killings among civilians.

More than 150 people were killed last week alone in Taliban attacks, U.S. drone strikes and raids by Afghan government forces, according to Al Jazeera.

While the Taliban issued a statement on Aug. 6 warning Afghans to avoid "electoral offices, voting booths, rallies, and campaigns".

Since their overthrow in 2001, the group which has condemned all governments in Kabul as "puppet regimes," has been waging a war for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. It says any commitment with the U.S.-backed government will grant it legitimacy and believes that elections will continue the U.S.' dominance of the country.

Hope for a peace deal was abruptly interrupted earlier this month after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to call off the negotiations with the Taliban saying that the deal, which had been reached in Qatar, was “dead” due to an attack that killed one U.S. soldier.

Now 16 hopeful candidates are running for the top job and will inherit the future negotiations and a shaky economy. Residents in Kabul point to the current unemployment rate, hovering around 35 percent as a sign of how much more still needs to be done.

There are four main contenders:

Ashraf Ghani, the incumbent president is seeking a second term and is running under the slogan of "Dawlat Saaz" or State Builder.

Abdullah Abdullah is the country’s chief executive officer and Ghani's strongest contender. His campaign slogan is Stability and Integration.

Ahmad Wali Massoud is the younger brother of former anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, and has served as the Afghan ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a controversial former commander accused of war crimes, nicknamed the "butcher of Kabul", he is believed to be responsible for the killing of thousands of civilians in Kabul during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s. In 2016, Hekmatyar was forgiven by the Afghan government as part of a peace deal. 

Abdul Latif Pedram is an ethnic Tajik, he is a member of parliament who campaigned for women's rights and federalism; and leader of the National Congress Party of Afghanistan. 

The president is both the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the Afghan armed forces. The president also appoints the cabinet, which is approved by the lower house of parliament.

The National Assembly consists of Wolesi Jirga (House of the People), the 249-seat lower house, and Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), the 102-seat upper house.

Wolesi Jirga, the most powerful of the houses, is responsible for passing and amending legislation. Meshrano Jirga has an advisory role.

A presidential candidate must secure 50 percent of the vote to win outright. If that threshold is not gained, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders, most likely on Nov. 23.

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