Afghan government fires election commission ahead of vote

President Ashraf Ghani is among the candidates for president in an election that was to be held in April

FILE - In this July 15, 2018, file photo, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghan government has fired its election commission, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. The move by Ghani’s administration comes more than three months after chaotic parliamentary elections -- the results of which have still not been announced -- and ahead of July’s controversial presidential vote. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government on Tuesday sacked the country's election commission several months after parliamentary elections marred by chaos. The results of those elections are still to be announced.

The decision came five months ahead of a controversial presidential vote in July that was set to go ahead in April before being postponed.

President Ashraf Ghani is among the candidates for president in an election that was to be held in April but was postponed because of the overwhelming number of complaints about the chaos that surrounded October's elections for Parliament.

A terse four-sentence statement from Mr Ghani's administration said both the Independent Election Commission and its complaints commission were fired. It did not offer reasons but Mr Ghani gave political parties and civil society representatives one week to nominate candidates to a new commission.

Last October's parliamentary polls, which were held three years late, were marred by widespread chaos. Polling stations opened hours late and some did not open at all. Workers trained in the use of a biometric identification system, aimed at curbing fraud, did not show up.

Mr Ghani has promised presidential polls will be held in July, but ongoing negotiations to end Afghanistan's 17-year war have included suggestions that an interim government would initially be formed while a "roadmap" for Afghanistan's future is hammered out by the many stakeholders, including the insurgent Taliban, involved in the peace talks.

Washington's special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has also said that presidential elections in July could complicate efforts to find an eventual end to the protracted conflict. Even Mr Ghani's political opposition, including rival presidential candidates, have entertained the suggestion of delayed presidential polls.

Mr Ghani's peace envoy Omar Daudzai, however, said Mr Ghani is not prepared to negotiate on a July presidential election date. Until now, the Taliban have refused direct talks with Mr Ghani, while holding meetings with his political opposition.

Afghanistan's 2014 presidential polls that put Mr Ghani in power were so deeply marred by allegations of widespread corruption that the United States stepped in to broker a so-called Unity government that gave Mr Ghani the presidency and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, a position of equal power with the title of chief executive.