Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Televised Debate Is a First for Kabul --- Tuesday's Debate Shows Increasingly Sophisticated Approach in Wide-Open Contest -- KABUL—Afghanistan's five leading presidential candidates faced off Tuesday in the first televised debate of the historic race, showcasing an increasingly sophisticated approach to political campaigning. -- Mr. Karzai must step down after a national election scheduled for April, and his refusal to sign the deal has raised fears that the U.S. will withdraw troops completely at the end of this year and pull the plug on billions of dollars in aid. In Tuesday night's debate, three of the candidates closest to him—former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and Qayum Karzai, the president's brother—all said they would back the security deal. --- The debate was aired as Afghan newsrooms prepare for blanket coverage of the campaign. Local media outlets are launching dedicated campaign websites, editors are dispatching reporters to the provinces, and candidates are prepping for a series of unprecedented debates. -- The vote, which would mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history, will decide whether the fragile democracy—and its fledgling independent media—will survive as international aid winds down and U.S. and international troops leave in December. - More, Nathan Hodge, WSJ


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