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Afghan candidate warns of post-poll bloodshed -

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ELEANOR HALL: As we go to air today Afghans are braving violence and threats to go out to vote for
their next president.

Taliban militants are vowing to cut off the fingers of those who go to the polls and 300,000 Afghan
and foreign troops including Australians are now guarding almost 7,000 polling sites in an attempt
to protect the 17 million voters.

But violence has continued right up to polling day with scores of people killed in the last week.
There have also been allegations of massive fraud.

And the United Nations is not underestimating the enormity of today's task.

ADRIAN EDWARDS: This is probably one of the most complex elections that is being attempted anywhere
in 2009.

You have problems of insecurity in Afghanistan. You have very difficult access to the country. You
have very weak institutions. So this is a very challenging election.

It is however the first Afghan-led election in more than 30 years. It is very important that
Afghanistan moves; there is progress from if you like the first Afghan elections in 2004, 2005.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the UN's electoral centre spokesman in Kabul, Adrian Edwards.

President Hamid Karzai remains the frontrunner in the election but he is facing tough opposition
from dozens of candidates including two former ministers who served with him.

One of those is Dr Ashraf Ghani who was Afghanistan's finance minister between 2002 and 2004 and
who has also been a senior advisor at the World Bank. Dr Ghani is running third in the polls. He
has been courted by Mr Karzai to form an alliance and had previously ruled it out.

But when he spoke to me earlier he was less adamant about that as he warned that blood could be
spilt over this election.

Dr Ashraf Ghani are you worried that many Afghans will not come out to vote because of the
intimidation from the Taliban and the concerns about vote rigging?

ASHRAF GHANI: Voter turnout is an issue, a serious issue. It's going to depend on the number of
security incidents today. (Inaudible) I think is a very serious issue. Unfortunately the
international organisations that have been tasked with supporting the election process have failed
miserably and now votes are being openly sold.

ELEANOR HALL: Now you have been highly critical of your former political colleague Hamid Karzai.
Would he damage the country if he were returned to power?

ASHRAF GHANI: He would. He has not shown vision, leadership or management and the thing that team
that he has assembled is one of the worst possible coalitions for bad government.

ELEANOR HALL: You've criticised him for forging alliances with warlords but is it possible to rule
Afghanistan without having the warlords on side?

ASHRAF GHANI: Absolutely. When I was finance minister I centralised the revenue of these very same
men and brought them to report on a weekly basis on their revenue and expenditure.

The warlords are a creation of the policies of the Bush administration and Mr Karzai's weakness.
Afghanistan is not a country that wishes to have warlords.

ELEANOR HALL: You were in power with Mr Karzai as the finance minister. If you weren't able to
yourself control corruption then, what do you hope to do about it now?

ASHRAF GHANI: I did. I did. I brought down corruption from the Ministry of Finance. I cut down the
militia at the Ministry of Defence from 400,000 to 8,000 within two years. Whatever is working in
the country is what I worked on during that period; that he either reversed those during the last
five years or created massive bad governance.

ELEANOR HALL: Why did he do that?

ASHRAF GHANI: He really has no vision. He was not prepared for leading because suddenly they
plucked him out of obscurity and planted him in the centre of government and he is one of the worst
managers that humanity can possibly produced.

ELEANOR HALL: He has tried to do a deal with you. Is there any chance you would form an alliance
with him?

ASHRAF GHANI: I am standing for the election. I have refused all offers of being the chief
executive officer. I am not an individual now. I represent a social movement and without the
constituencies that I represent - the youth, the poor and the women, I will not enter into an
individual deal.

It would have to be a reform agenda that is so clearly delineated and some sort of deliverables for
these constituencies that we can have assurance.

ELEANOR HALL: That does sound a little as though you are leaving the door open though to
negotiating some sort of a deal with him.

ASHRAF GHANI: The country is volatile. My first duty is to prevent violence. In that regard I will
do everything possible to bring stability to the country.

ELEANOR HALL: What about the issue of foreign forces in Afghanistan? When ideally would you like to
see foreign troops leaving your country?

ASHRAF GHANI: My agenda is restoration of Afghan sovereignty. We need international the troops and
I am thanking every Australian mother and father for sparing their sons and daughters. We are
extremely grateful for this.

But my agenda is to bring an exit of these brave young men and women within the shortest period
possible. That I think is a three to seven year framework.

ELEANOR HALL: And what is your approach for dealing with the Taliban?

ASHRAF GHANI: My agenda is multi-pronged. The first is we organise Afghan security forces so that
they are coherent. Two, there'll be full coordination with international forces so we don't engage
in bombing based on false information or use of force.

And then there is the question on unemployment. The reserve army of the Taliban are the unemployed
youth. Unless we create the one million jobs there will always be a reserve army.

ELEANOR HALL: You are prepared to negotiate with them?

ASHRAF GHANI: Absolutely. We are bringing warlords into the Cabinet who created the worst human
rights violations but we have excluded others who actually cleaned up these people. And those that
are associated with Al Qaeda of course are ruled out. They cannot be part of this because they are
planning to turn Afghanistan into the battlefield and not in the interests of Afghans.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Ghani, thanks very much for joining us.

ASHRAF GHANI: Pleasure for being with you. Thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Dr Ashraf Ghani, one of the top Opposition candidates in today's election in
Afghanistan. And you can hear a longer version of that interview on our website at
abc.net.au/worldtoday.