You would think the final list of candidates for one of the most important presidential elections in Afghanistan’s history, and the country’s first democratic transfer of power, would provide some excitement. Instead there is little to cheer about. The list comprises many old faces, and it raises questions as to whether the poll due to take place on Saturday will be truly representative across ethnic lines.
All the eight candidates in this Afghan-managed and Afghan-led election are from the majority Pashtun ethnic group, with two, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Zalmay Rassoul, leading the polls. Only one lead candidate, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, is half Pashtun and half Tajik.… Seguir leyendo »
It must have been embarrassing for President Karzai of Afghanistan to have to admit in front of a fellow president, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan – that he receives “bags of money” in donations from Iran. “This is a relationship between neighbours,” he said, making it sound as though it is customary for neighbours to walk around carrying bags of handouts.
A few aspects are intriguing. First, President Karzai claimed that “this is transparent”. He said once or twice a year Iran provided as much as €700,000 (£615,000) and that money was handled by Omar Daudzai, his powerful chief of staff, who is known for his anti-western views.… Seguir leyendo »
The arrival of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York for the UN general assembly has brought a predictable media frenzy. Iran’s disputed president has already done interviews with a few experienced US journalists such as Christiane Amanpour and is due on the usual round of American TV studios with the Charlie Rose show on PBS, and CNN’s Larry King Live.
Ahmadinejad cherishes these moments as he is keen to use every chance to publicise his political designs. The BBC even went so far as to call him a “master of spin”; others say he has “become more articulate and polished”. And now a debate is developing about why such experienced journalists rarely manage to crack his defences or get anything new out of him.… Seguir leyendo »
He missed the Cannes film festival while in solitary confinement on hunger strike in Evin prison, Iran. Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed Iranian film director, was released on bail today. He went on hunger strike on 16 May to protest at his treatment and the accusations against him. He was arrested in February for allegedly making a film about the contested presidential elections of last June, which brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back to power.
Panahi is known for his social realism films and has won awards at the Venice and Berlin film festivals. While on hunger strike in prison, he was due to be acting as a judge at the Cannes film festival last week.… Seguir leyendo »
Hundreds of thousands are reported to have taken part in rallies in Tehran today to mark the 30th anniversary of the US embassy takeover. “The arrogant American attitude has not changed,” said Gholmali Haddad-Adel, former hardline speaker of parliament when he addressed the crowds.
“Death to the dictator” shouted anti-government protesters, who were being blocked from reaching the embassy. The “dictator” referred to is deliberately ambiguous but this is a slogan increasingly adopted by the opposition since the June election.
Revolutionary Guards had issued stern warning that they would not tolerate any slogans other than “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.… Seguir leyendo »
It is difficult to know how to react to the decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to propose three women in his new cabinet, two of whom he has already named. Should I be proud, as an Iranian woman, that for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic women will be proposed for cabinet posts? Well, I wish I could feel proud. The reality is that if Ahmadinejad had chosen two ultra-hardline conservative men for the same posts it would have made no difference in terms of policy and vision.
He has proposed Fatemeh Ajorlou for the welfare and social security ministry and Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the health ministry.… Seguir leyendo »