Major Afghan Presidential Candidate Suspends Campaign

  • Afghan election parties were formed in the winter of last year, and the "Peace and Moderation" party led by Atmar had one of six candidates listed for the final election.
  • The Peace and Moderation statement cited "progress in the peace process" and "increased insecurity and political instability linked to the electoral process and potential threats to the elections."
  • Afghanistan's presidential election is scheduled to be held on 2 October 2019.

Afghan presidential candidate Mohammad Hanif Atmar has announced that he has decided to halt his campaign. His Peace and Moderation Party have criticized the government for “undermining the credibility of the election” because of the ruling party’s “unlawful actions.”

Mohammad Hanif Atmar (born 10 September 1968) is the former Interior Minister of Afghanistan. He was removed from MOI by Hamid Karzai in the wake of attacks on the June 2010 Afghan Peace Jirga. Before that he worked with several international humanitarian organizations and served as Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Minister of Education. Atmar announced his candidacy for the April 2019 presidential elections, indicating he firmly believes a peace deal with the Taliban is possible.

“Despite serious and consistent efforts by the Peace and Moderation team to work with other election teams…including unilateral suspension of campaigns for a week, unfortunately, no reforms were made,” the group said in a statement. “And the naked interventions of the citadel continue to this day. With such a situation today, there is no certainty about the transparency of the elections and the guarantee of free and fair elections.”

Afghan election parties were formed in the winter of last year, and the “Peace and Moderation” party led by Atmar had one of six candidates listed for the final election, but the party did not seriously engage in the campaign in recent days and only managed to install a few photos throughout the city.

Meanwhile, the debate over the dismantling of the Peace and Moderation Party has been hot for several days due to disputes among its members. Sources said there was a sharp disagreement between former Balkh governor Atta Mohammed Noor and one of the main supporters of the Peace and Moderation team, Mohammed Younis Canouni, and Mr. Atmar over the creation of the prime minister post.

There has been a lot of talk about these differences on social networks in Afghanistan. However, spokesman Qadir Shah has denied the Peace and Moderation Party had any disagreements that could lead to the suspension. He told news reporters that there was a debate among the team over national issues but there was no dispute among party members. The new announcement does not mention the differences.

Mr. Atmar had announced a “reform of the presidency” as one of his plans, saying he would create a third vice-president alongside the chancellor. The spokesman said the team would create a prime ministerial post if they won the election, an indication that Mr. Noor would have a position. But the team reportedly refused to publish a photo of Noor that would have publicly signaled he would get the post. The spokesman called the photo story “a propaganda hoax” used by the opposition.

The Taliban, who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan currently waging war (an insurgency, or jihad) within that country. Since 2016, the Taliban’s leader is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Another reason for Mr. Atmar’s campaign suspension is the security threat. The Taliban recently threatened election rallies. The Peace and Moderation statement cited “progress in the peace process” and “increased insecurity and political instability linked to the electoral process and potential threats to the elections.”

It is unclear whether the suspension of Mr. Atmar’s election campaign means the team’s total dissolution and withdrawal or that it will reform with a new structure.

“The leadership of the peace and moderation team, considering the changing situation in the country, will study its role more consistently and make decisions in accordance with future political developments,” the statement said. Afghanistan’s presidential election is scheduled to be held on 2 October 2019.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site. 

 


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