Feb. 2 - Presidential candidates in Afghanistan begin two months of campaigning for an election that Western allies hope will consolidate fragile stability. Nathan Frandino reports.
Political parties are rolling out the campaign posters, marking the start of election season in Afghanistan. Presidential candidates will have two months to convince voters they're ready to lead the country. Abdullah Abdullah is one of at least five candidates in the race. At the top of his agenda is the bilateral security agreement with the United States. (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, SAYING: "We believe that the fate of the bilateral security agreement is a priority for our country. Afghanistan needs a continuation of support from the international community in the future and the signing of this agreement is a condition for all military, economic, financial and technical support from the international community." The agreement will determine conditions of U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan past 2014. Kate Clark, a senior analyst with the Kabul-based Afghan Analysts Network, says the campaign will be multifaceted. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR ANALYST WITH THE KABUL-BASED AFGHAN ANALYSTS NETWORK, KATE CLARK, SAYING: "Other factors will be fraud; fraud both on election day and how the ballots are counted and who decides which ballots are discarded and also there is an issue in Afghanistan whereby powerful people either on a district or regional level claim that they can bring in the votes of their supporters. So it will be a messy election and it will be a question of how messy it is and how legitimate it is." The election will be held in April.