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Who will lead Afghanistan after Karzai?

Afghanistan’s next presidential elections are scheduled for 2014. However, President Hamid Karzai recently announced that he may call elections a year earlier.

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Mr. Ludin says candidates need strong ethnic and tribal connections to campaign in provinces where violence from the Taliban and other insurgent groups are increasing.

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“It’s unfortunate, but the fact of the matter is also that any real candidate will need millions of dollars to campaign. If you don’t give cellphones, buy cars, rent homes, and buy off supporters, no one will campaign for you,” he says.

Who’s in the running?

Only two people have formally announced that they intend to run for the presidency at this point: Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Minister of Interior in the Karzai administration and Fawzia Koofi, the current and first female deputy speaker of Afghanistan’s parliament. Mr. Jalali is Pashtun but Ms. Koofi is not.

Other potential candidates include opposition figures like Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s top contender in the 2009 presidential elections and who is half Pashtun, and a list of other former and current Afghan government officials who have run in previous elections.

“Farooq Wardak and Umer Daudzai [both Pashtuns] are waiting to be tapped by Karzai and most likely one of them will be his choice candidate,” says Mujda. Mr. Wardak is the current minister of education and Mr. Daudzai is Karzai’s former chief of staff. If either receives Karzai’s support, it is likely that with it will come Karzai’s financial and political networks.

Koofi and a few others like Nader Nadery, a former commissioner for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, have caught the attention of some of Afghans attracted to the possibility of a professional Afghan with a strong record of protecting the rights of Afghans to run for the presidency.

Money challenges

But Koofi, a parliamentarian from the northern province of Badakhshan, says competing with candidates who receive money from illegal channels will be difficult.

Her tactic to deal with this is to mobilize the support of the Afghan youth below the age of 25. That group makes up close to 65 percent of the Afghan population and a significant amount of the voting population, according to population statistics. Koofi says the Afghan youth could have more influence in the upcoming presidential elections if the elections are run freely and fairly.

“If they organize themselves and support a candidate they believe in, they can make a difference and change the political environment in Afghanistan,” she says.

Still, conservative forces in Afghanistan say the country is not ready for a young, progressive leader.

“With all of the progress that has come to Afghanistan in the last 10 years, this society is still one that is lead by elders and the older generations. The younger candidates haven’t proven themselves to the older generations yet and haven’t won their trust,” says Abdual Hadi Arghandiwal, the Afghan minister of economy and the leader of the Hezb-e-Islami political party, which is linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Islamic militant group of the same name.

“We need a president who respects the foundations of democracy and human rights in his actions but doesn’t speak too much about it to a conservative Afghan public and scare them away,” says Mujda.

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