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 An Ariana Media Publication 12/22/2014
 Afghan Election Frontrunners

The Wall Street Journal
10/09/2013
By Nathan Hodge

[Printer Friendly Version]

Elections next spring will mark the first democratic transition in Afghanistan's history.

Elections next spring will mark the first democratic transition in Afghanistan's history. The leading presidential hopefuls and their vice presidential nominees:

*Abdullah Abdullah (mixed Tajik and Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Mohammad Khan (Pashtun), Mohammed Mohaqeq (Hazara)

A former Afghan foreign minister, Mr. Abdullah ran against Mr. Karzai in the 2009 presidential election, coming in second with 30.6% of the vote, despite allegations of widespread fraud in favor of the incumbent.

A prominent member of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Mr. Abdullah is backed by a legal faction of the Hezb-e-Islami movement founded by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and leading Tajik power-brokers such as former parliament speaker Yunus Qanooni and Balkh provincial Governor Atta Mohammad Noor.

*Qayum Karzai (Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Wahidullah Shahrani (Uzbek), Ibrahim Qasemi (Hazara)

The older brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Qayum is a businessman and former member of Afghanistan's parliament.

Born in southern Kandahar province, Mr. Karzai ran his family's Afghan restaurants in the U.S. As a lawmaker, he came in for criticism for a poor attendance record. He resigned his seat in 2008, citing health issues.

Earlier this year, the Karzai family became embroiled in a dispute over a huge property development in the southern city of Kandahar, an issue that Qayum tried to mediate between two other brothers. That dispute was eventually resolved, allowing the family to present a more united front.

Mr. Karzai hasn't received an official endorsement from the president.

*Zalmai Rassoul (Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Ahmad Zia Massoud (Tajik), Habiba Sarabi (Hazara)

A French-educated medical doctor, Mr. Rassoul served as President Karzai's foreign minister before resigning this weekend to run for office.

The soft-spoken Mr. Rassoul became foreign minister in 2010, but largely avoided the political spotlight. Long seen as a favorite of some members of Mr. Karzai's inner circle, he has accompanied the Afghan president on his trips around the globe; before heading the country's foreign ministry, he served for eight years as Mr. Karzai's national security adviser.

Before becoming national security adviser, Mr. Rassoul was Afghanistan's minister of civil aviation, heading an effort to secure Afghanistan's readmission to the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association. Mr. Rassoul also participated in the 2001 Bonn Conference, which helped shape Afghanistan's political order after the collapse of the Taliban regime.

*Ashraf Ghani (Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Abdul Rashid Dostum (Uzbek), Sarwar Danish (Hazara)

A U.S.-based academic turned Afghan politician, Mr. Ghani was President Karzai's transition adviser, and before that finance minister. He ran in the presidential 2009 elections, garnering 2.9% of the vote.

Long popular among educated and urban Afghans, Mr. Ghani has presented himself as a forward-looking intellectual who can help Afghanistan connect with the global economy—but surprised many of his supporters by choosing Mr. Dostum, an Uzbek former warlord, as one of his running mates. During his term as transition adviser, he raised his national profile by traveling widely and visiting all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

*Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf (Pashtun)

Vice president nominees: Ismail Khan (Tajik), Abdul Wahab Erfan (Uzbek)

The most conservative and most controversial of Afghanistan's presidential candidates, Mr. Sayyaf is a former Islamist warlord who brought al Qaeda's leading figures to Afghanistan.

An Egyptian-trained cleric who endorses a rigid interpretation of Islam, Mr. Sayyaf has a strong popular following because of his past as a prominent mujahedeen commander. But his strong name recognition may also be a liability: Many Afghans remember his participation in the 1990s civil war, when much of Kabul was destroyed by warring militias. Mr. Sayyaf unsuccessfully ran for parliament speaker in 2010.

Mr. Sayyaf's first vice-presidential nominee is Ismail Khan, a onetime "emir" of western Afghanistan who still has a strong following in the region.

*Gul Agha Shirzai (Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Sayed Hossain Alemi Balkhi (Hazara) and Mohammad Hashem Zare (Uzbek)

Governor of Kandahar and a leading mujahedeen commander before the Taliban takeover, Mr. Shirzai returned to the post following the U.S. invasion of 2001, and until last week served as governor of Nangarhar province, a key region that is eastern Afghanistan's trade hub—and a vital supply corridor for the U.S.-led coalition.

In Nangarhar, he won a reputation as a provincial leader who could deliver on key reconstruction projects. But his record there was also tarnished by concerns raised by U.S. officials that he was using the governorship as a personal revenue-generating scheme, collecting unauthorized taxes on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He remains a potent force in his home province of Kandahar.

*Abdul Rahim Wardak (Pashtun)

Vice Presidential nominees: Shah Abdul Ahad Afzali (Tajik) and Sayed Hussain Anwari (Shiite)

A leading mujahedeen commander in the 1980s war against the Soviets, Gen. Wardak is running on his security credentials. Educated in the U.S., he served for eight years as President Karzai's minister of defense, playing a key role in rebuilding Afghanistan's army.

Gen. Wardak lost a parliamentary confidence vote last year, but is running on a platform that emphasizes national unity. He didn't take sides in the country's bloody civil war, and his entourage on the day that he registered included a relatively large number of women.

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