Country Risk

Progress in peace talks and problematic international funding increase likelihood of delay to Afghan presidential election

05 February 2019

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks at the IEC office in Kabul on 20 January 2019. Source: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • Afghanistan’s presidential election is due to take place on 20 July 2019 after being delayed by the Election Commission by two months to allow for further preparations.
  • President Ashraf Ghani appears best-placed among the candidates to win the election, particularly because of his access to state apparatus for support and with the opposition vote likely to be split.
  • With US-Taliban talks progressing – together with delays in international funding, security challenges, and heightened instability associated with the election – there is an increased probability that polling will be delayed and potentially suspended to allow the formation of an interim government.


On 31 January, an official of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) admitted that the electoral body had not received any funding from international donors for the country’s presidential election, which is scheduled to be held on 20 July 2019.

The official did not elaborate on why the funds had not been finalised, but it is likely due to international concerns about the IEC’s ability to conduct free and fair elections. Initially scheduled for April 2019, the election was delayed in December 2018 by the IEC to allow additional time for the preparation of voter lists and to train staff to use new biometric identification equipment intended to counter fraud. The lack of funding and problems with preparations are, however, only two of the practical, logistic, and political obstacles to the election taking place on time. Despite these challenges, at least 18 candidates have already registered to contest the election.

Ghani’s re-election bid

Incumbent President Ashraf Ghani is standing in the election and has announced Amrullah Saleh and Sarwar Danesh as his vice-presidential running mates. Ghani appeals to Pashtun nationalism directly, and hopes that Saleh – a Tajik hardline opponent of reconciliation with the Taliban – and that Danesh, a member of the Hazara community, will attract the support of a minority of pro-modernisation Tajiks and Hazaras.

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