The situation around Afghanistan is rapidly developing - alongside with the main issue, the negotiating process with the Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia), the election campaign has begun. On July 20, 2019, the country will hold the presidential election to appoint the head of the state amid one of its most important historical periods. Simultaneously, the election to the administrations of provinces and districts will be held, which should not be underestimated either.
Initially, the election was scheduled for April but in the end of December it was announced that it will be shifted to July 20. According to a statement by the presidential administration, that was done due to technical issues as well as the wish “to avoid the mistakes of the past.” Indeed, the independent electoral commission decided to postpone the election to eliminate administrative and technical faults that occurred during the parliamentary elections in autumn. A stable political system needs an operational electoral system. To date more and more Afghan citizens agree with the fact that their country needs a fundamental reform of the electoral process.
The parliamentary elections in November revealed that the process of will expression in the Islamist republic leaves much to be desired. Let me remind you that in the early 2000s the German Marshall Fund of the United States conducted a poll, which revealed that vast majority of Afghan population had never heard of then-president Hamid Karzai. Basically, the election in Afghanistan is a quite peculiar thing.
Anyway, despite all the difficulties, the presidential election will be an important event, which is set to outline the Afghan state. It is not only the opinion of the population, which is important there but also that of the political elite of Afghanistan, the US and other sponsors of Kabul.
Several candidates have already expressed readiness to run for presidency. For Russia, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who is former head of the Security Council and one of the most influential politicians in Afghanistan to date, is the most advantageous candidate.
Western media often regarded him as the power behind the throne in Afghanistan. A security official, a Pashtun from the influential tribe of Ghiljaee, Atmar was behind the signing the security agreement with the US, as well behind the launch of the negotiating process with the Taliban movement. What is most interesting is that Atmar speaks fluent Russian and is a frequent guest in Moscow. He managed to establish trustworthy and mutually beneficial relations with head of Russia’s Security Council general Nikolai Patrushev. He also has tight contacts with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
In 2016, Atmar said that the aim of frequent visits to Moscow was to secure more serious support from Russia. According to him, “the longer Afghan army, police and intelligence forces are fighting the IS (outlawed in Russia) the longer it won’t pose threat to Russia and Central Asia.” The politician said then that in this sense the Russian assistance was very effective.
In his youth, Atmar served in the Afghan intelligence agency KHAD which was established under the assistance of the USSR. During the civil war, he fought on the side of the Communists and lost his leg in one the battles.
After the fall of pro-Communist regime and the seizure of Kabul by Mujahedeen in 1992 he left for Pakistan and later to Great Britain. In 2008-2010, he headed the Afghan Interior Ministry. He was against reintegration of former rebels in the army and police.
Hanif Atmar was expected to run for presidency from this political movement. But during the presidential elections of 2014 he backed the candidacy of Ashraf Ghani. After the election of Ashraf Ghani as the Afghan President Atmar became his National Security Advisor.
Later Ghani appointed Yunus Qanuni and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq as his first and second Vice Presidents respectively.
Yunus Qanuni, who is an ethnic Tajik, has been regarded as one of the most influential politicians over the last 15 years. In the 1990s, he joined with the rebel forces led by Ahmad Shah Massoud and fought against Taliban. Under the Afghan Transitional administration, Qanuni headed the Interior and Education ministries. Later on, he became a member of parliament and served as Speaker of the lower house for five years. Qanuni is one of the leaders of Panjshiri secular Tajiks in Afghanistan.
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, an ethnic Hazara, is one of the long livers on the Afghan political arena. He is a member of parliament and the Hazara leader. In the 1980-s, he served with the mujahedeen rebel forces fighting against the Soviet-backed Afghan government. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from the country Mohaqiq became the leader of the Hazara political party Hezb-e Wahdat. Born in 1955, in the Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh Province, he studied in Iran. Mohaqiq speaks Persian, Uzbek and Arabic.
In other words, Atmar formed one of the strongest teams ahead of the presidential election. The politician shares the opinion that Afghanistan’s foreign policy should be quite balanced and neutral. He has close ties with politicians in Great Britain, Russia, the U.S., India and Iran.
Taking into account his influence, political and military experience, Atmar definitely has chances to run for presidency. But the final word rests with the main sponsor of Kabul – the U.S. At present the U.S. tends to lean toward the president in office who is paying due respect to Washington.