Afghan presidential election 2014: Race begins with no clear favorites

KABUL: The Afghanistan’s election authorities on Monday started receiving the nomination papers of the candidates for the presidential election scheduled on April 5 next year.

The incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai cannot contest the upcoming election as he is barred from running for a third four-year term.

The candidates have to submit their names and meet requirements, including depositing a fee of 1 million Afghanis ($18,000) and handing over voter identification information of 100,000 people backing them till October 6.

There are no clear favorites in the race, but speculation in recent days has focused on Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, a former national security adviser with a medical degree, and Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, an influential lawmaker with a long history as a jihadist and allegations of past links to Arab militants including Osama bin Laden.

Other potential candidates for the Afghan presidential election include: Abdullah Abdullah, an opposition leader who lost to Karzai in 2009; Ashraf Ghani, a well-known academic and former finance minister with a reputation as a technocrat who also lost the last election; Hanif Atmar, a former interior minister who has grown critical of Karzai; and Farooq Wardak, the education minister who is involved in efforts to pursue peace talks with Taliban insurgents.