Business as usual for candidates before E-Day

19 Aug 2009

Business as usual for candidates before E-Day

19 August 2009 - With the campaigning period over and Election Day just hours away, the fates of the 41 presidential contenders are now in the hands of the nearly 17 million Afghan voters.

However, for most candidates, the work towards get elected – or re-elected – to the highest office in Afghanistan, continues unabated.

Hamid Karzai, who enters Thursday's historic election as incumbent president and front-runner, spent the crucial day-before mainly attending to official duties.

He got into work at eight in the morning, participated in an Independence Day function, and then got into meetings.

"President Karzai's schedule is different from the other candidates," says Waheed Omeri, his campaign spokesperson. "It's been business as usual for him. It's a day away from elections, but there have been no major changes in his daily routine, as his schedule gets decided two weeks in advance."

According to Mr Omeri, Mr Karzai will be spending the evening with his family at the Presidential Palace.

His strongest rival, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, spent Wednesday working from his home in Karte Parwan in Kabul.

Sayeed Mohammad Rezvani, his campaign manager, says that his candidate has been using the day to meet with key advisers and to finalise plans for tomorrow, more specifically, focussing on election observers, who will be deployed by the campaign throughout the country.

"We were hoping to have 10,000 of our observers, but we've been given only 7000 permits by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) so far," complains Mr Rezvani.

Another candidate who's been busy making final preparations is Dr Ashraf Ghani, who also spent the day in meetings trying to put systems in place for Election Day.

According to a campaign official who chose to remain anonymous, Dr Ghani got up at 5 am, read the morning papers, and then headed to work.

"We're going to be monitoring for fraud tomorrow and we want to make sure that our voters are not intimidated. For that we will be sending thousands of our own election observers and volunteers to polling stations everywhere," said another official.

Although the opinion polls, for some, paint a slightly different picture, each of the three candidates is confident of winning.

A campaign aide says the mood is "upbeat" within the Ghani camp. "We're enthusiastic. Of course, we're working for the win," he added.

Dr Abdullah, according to an insider, has been relaxed and optimistic since campaigning ended on Monday night and spent time on Wednesday with his children.

"We're hopeful of winning the elections," says Mr Rezvani.

Although details about his polling schedule are unavailable, sources say Dr Abdullah will be voting early in the morning at a centre close to his house.

In order to encourage voters to turn up, President Hamid Karzai, too, will head early to a polling booth near the Presidential Palace.

"We're pleased with the way the campaign went towards the end and we are hopeful of winning in the first round itself," added Mr Omeri.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA