Afghanistan's election authorities are considering delaying a presidential election scheduled for April 2019, officials said, as they struggle to count votes cast in recent parliamentary elections.
The possible postponement also comes as U.S. officials engage the Taliban in talks to end the 17-year war that some fear could be derailed by the April 20 presidential vote, which is expected to be fiercely contested.
Kubra Rezaie, a spokeswoman at the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said on November 26 that the presidential election could be delayed by three months but added that discussions were "at an initial stage."
Rezaie said an option being considered was to hold the presidential election, along with an already delayed parliamentary election in the province of Ghazni and provincial council and district council elections, in July.
Ali Reza Rohani, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), told reporters on November 26 that there would be "legal and technical issues" in delaying the election, although it would be "practical" to push the vote to the new date of July 13.
The Afghan Constitution requires the presidential election to take place no later than April 22.
IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad told reporters that a "practical timeline" was needed. "The economic, security and weather situations are forcing us to make some changes to the timeline of elections," Sayyad said.
President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah are among the officials who have declared that the date should not be changed.
Thousands Of Complaints
The October parliamentary elections came in for severe criticism over technical and logistical problems, including with biometric verification machines and incomplete or missing voter rolls, resulting in thousands of registered complaints.
The elections, which were more than three years late, were also marred by deadly violence. The elections were not held in Ghazni Province due to disputes over representation between different ethnic groups.
The IEC has announced preliminary results for parliamentary elections in 10 of the 33 Afghan provinces where voting took place.
But full results for all provinces are not expected until January, officials said, with election authorities saying there would not be enough time to prepare for the presidential vote.
The election is complicated by diplomatic efforts to start a formal peace process with the Taliban, who have met U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad for several rounds of preliminary talks.
Khalilzad told reporters in Kabul this month that a peace deal with the militants could be reached by April.