Technocrat shaking up Afghan presidential polls

Posted By: Staff
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Kabul, Aug.14 (ANI): Ashraf Ghani, the most educated and Westernized of Afghanistan's presidential candidates, is shaking up the campaign before next Thursday's election in more ways than one.

A former finance minister with a background in American academia and at the World Bank, Ghani, 60, says he is trying to change politics in Afghanistan. Using television and radio, Internet donations and student volunteers, as well as traditional networks like religious councils.

He says that he is seeking to reach out to young people, women and the poor, and do the unexpected: defeat President Hamid Karzai.

Currently, Ghani's national support is pegged at just four percent - and he probably remains an outsider in the race. Yet,he has succeeded in elevating the debate with a focus on policy and a detailed plan for reform, challenging the Afghan electorate to think beyond the status quo, reports the New York Times.

Articulate in several languages, Ghani has written two books, one titled "Fixing Failed States," and the other a detailed plan on how to lift Afghanistan out of poverty and instability within 10 years, which is essentially his election manifesto.

He has been one of the most influential figures involved in building the current Afghan state. Appointed finance minister in 2002, he instituted a centralized revenue collection scheme, and oversaw the flow of billions of dollars of foreign assistance into the war-torn country.

Yet his scrupulousness made him enemies and, disillusioned with official corruption and Karzai's leadership, he left the cabinet in 2004.

Such is his experience, and his support in Washington, that Ghani is among the contenders mentioned to fill a strong executive position under the president that is being proposed by American officials to strengthen the government's performance should Karzai win another term.

He has been the most vociferous of any candidate in challenging Karzai's overstaying his constitutional mandate, which was extended in order to hold the election on August 20, and also in accusing the president of using government resources and officials to promote his campaign.

He has castigated the election organizers, both foreign and Afghan, for allowing fraud and manipulation to occur unchecked. He has also rejected the backroom deal-making for which Karzai has been strongly criticized, and has refused overtures from Karzai to give up his candidacy and join his campaign.

His main drawback, however, is his aloofness. (ANI)

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