KABUL - A Jirga titled "Mutual Understanding Among Presidential Candidates" consisting 15 registered nominees convened on Sunday to discuss the consolidation of the candidate field for the spring elections. The Jirga was initiated by Sebghatullah Mojadidi, the former Afghan President.
Representatives of the National Assembly, other government officials and tribal elders participated in the Jirga. Though it is likely they all do not have the same preference of who President Hamid Karzai's successor should be, all of the participants gathered with the common belief that an election with no less than 27 registered candidates would be dangerous.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) had attempted to keep an overabundance of candidates from registering for the 2014 elections, as was the case in past years, by ratcheting up the standards for nomination. However, when the official registration period ended last Sunday, no less than 27 Presidential tickets had submitted themselves for nomination.
Although the IEC has announced that a Presidential candidate was eliminated from the list due to not meeting the criteria for eligibility, the field still stands at 26, which is much higher than members of the Jirga would like to see.
Participants of the Jirga said a major issue with a high number of candidates is that the electorate will be diluted, which could lead to a second round and disputes over the legitimacy of candidates.
"In the meeting that we had today with some candidates, some of them expressed interest in withdrawing, which would be for the benefit of everyone," said Moeen Marastyal, a member of the Jirga.
The goal of the Jirga seems to be an ambitious one, with participants talking about reducing the field to less than five candidates.
"Our goal is to reduce the candidates to four, who can compete competitively and prevent any kind of crisis," said Assadullah Wafa, a participant of the Jirga.
The next meeting of the Jirga is expected to be held over Eid.
The preliminary list of candidates is expected to be announced on October 19 by the IEC, and on November 16, the final list released. (Tolo news)