Afghan Candidates Build Multiethnic Tickets

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Presidential Hopefuls Try to Broaden Support for April Elections.

Coalition-building for Afghanistan’s presidential election is culminating this week, with a handful of likely front-runners emerging ahead of Sunday’s registration deadline and the line between the president’s allies and opponents becoming increasingly blurry.

President Hamid Karzai isn’t allowed to stand for a third term in the April election. His successor would oversee a critical period in Afghanistan’s history, as U.S.-led coalition troops withdraw, foreign aid declines and the Taliban insurgency seeks to regain power.

If it is conducted successfully, despite Taliban violence and fears of fraud, the election would help secure continued international backing for the Afghan government and would mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

“This is an election that everyone is waiting for. Every Afghan’s life depends on this election,” said Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, thecountry’schief electoral officer. “If we have a good election, we will have a good government. And if we have a good government, we will fight against corruption and bring peace to this country.”

While many Afghan politicians and foreign diplomats voice private concerns that the election might be scrapped because of widening violence or Mr. Karzai’s reluctance to relinquish power, preparations for the vote are going ahead. Candidates for Afghan president and the two vice-presidential posts must resign from the government and parliament by Sunday.

In multiethnic Afghanistan, where no single community has an absolute majority, presidential hopefuls have traditionally sought to build support across ethnic lines. Mr. Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, ran both times with an ethnic Tajik as his first vice president and an ethnic Hazara as his second vice president.

This time coalition talks are centering on choosing the highest-profile running mates who would garner such multiethnic backing.

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