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The Last-Minute Nominations

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In past few days, there was a flurry of resignations from government posts, as many prominent political figures are preparing to nominate for the presidential elections. In the latest moves to nominate for election contests, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dustom, the chairman of joint chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army and Gul Agha Shirzai, the powerful governor of Nangarhar, resigned from their posts. Abdul Rasoul Sayaf, a former Mujahedin leader and Abdullah Abdullah were two high-profile political figures who submitted their nomination with the IEC along with their elections mates for vice-presidency. And, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani is expected to register with IEC soon.

The election process and candidate registration is taking a fresh momentum as more heavyweight nominees are coming at the center stage in the few coming days. Sayaf and Ashraf Ghani – and possibly Gul Agha Shirzai – entering to the race is meaning that many government-affiliated political figures, who previously were assumed as being part of President Karzai’s camp, would run in the elections. So far, there are rumors of possible nomination of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the head of the security transition commission, President Karzai’s elder brother Qayoum Karzai and Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul. Nomination of all these figures would most likely play devastating for the government-backed camp centered at President Karzai.

There are common believes that the president is playing a smart game with multiple nominations for the elections so that would be able to choose the most probable candidate in the last stage of the competitions. It cannot be ruled out that such a scenario may be being played by the government camp. However, there would be no guarantee for the government bloc would remain on control of all candidates that today are considered as being tacitly backed by President Karzai and his government team. However, the fact remains that the government and particularly president Karzai has maintained the craft of playing the politics well. In fact, this is what differentiates Karzai’s team from other alliances. Karzai still has a high level of influence on different factions as has developed a far-reaching patronage network during the last twelve years of ruling Afghanistan.

If several political strongmen come ahead in running for presidency from the government side – or considered as government-affiliated – it would put government camp in disarray with multiple candidates running against other prominent nominees such as Abdullah Abdullah. On the other hand, despite that Abdullah has managed to form a relatively broad support from the former Jamiat senior leaders, his camp still remains uncertain as some of his supporters may switch sides in the last-minute deals with the government camp.

The reports suggest that Ashraf Ghani would enter to the contest and nominate Gen. Dostum and Karim Khalili as his would-be vice-presidents. Ghani’s nomination is confusing many who calculated Khalili would support a government-backed candidate, since Ghani may not be the main candidate endorsed by the government camp. On the other hand, on Abdullah’s nomination at the IEC, absence of Ismail Khan, Herat governor, was notable at the commission while he had publicly announced his support to Abdullah’s nomination. This meant that one of the main supporters of Abdullah finally came forward against him as part of Sayaf’s team that could be merged with other government-backed teams at any time in the future.

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