An election to the office of President of Afghanistan was held on October 9, 2004. Hamid Karzai won the election with 55.4% of the votes. It is estimated that more than three-fourths of Afghanistan's nearly 10 million registered voters cast ballots.
After accusations of fraud circulated on the day of the election, fifteen candidates declared that they were boycotting the ballot, but the boycott dissolved.
The date was originally set for July 5. The elections were twice postponed, first until September, and then until October.
Candidates for president also nominated two vice-presidenital candidates. Some candidates used this to balance their ticket with regard to Afghanistan's three main ethnic communities.
If no candidate had secured 50% of the votes, a run-off election would have been held.
This was Afghanistan's first direct election. In 1965 and 1969, there were legislative polls, but those elections were indirect.
Candidates and Issues
Twenty-three candidates put their name forward for presidency, but five of them dropped out of the running by the time campaigning began.
The favourite throughout was interim president Hamid Karzai. Karzai ran as an independent, though he had the backing of several political parties, including Afghan Mellat , a social democratic party.
Initially, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a warlord and member of the Afghan National Defense Commission in Karzai's first interim government, was expected to be Karzai's main challenger, but it soon became clear that his popularity was limited.
Yunus Qanuni, who served in several prominent positions in the interim government, instead emerged as the focus of opposition to Karzai. Qanuni, a leading member of the Northern Alliance, had the support of Mohammed Fahim, an interim vice-president who was dropped from the Karzai ticket during the campaign. Qanuni claimed to represent the legacy of Ahmad Shah Massoud, as did several other candidates (including Massoud's brother, one of Karzai's Vice-presidential candidates).
Also running was Mohammed Mohaqiq . He was a leader of the Wahdat faction of the Afghan Islamic Unity Party , a minister under Burhanuddin Rabbani and Karzai, and had been a strong ally of Dostum. Mohaqiq criticised Karzai as a weak leader and pledged to unite conflicting factions and end the drugs trade. He faced widespread accusations that he committed war crimes during the fight against the Soviet occupation, subsequent internecine conflict within the Mujahedin, and later, against the Taleban.
The youngest candidate was 41-year old Abdul Hafiz Mansoor . He was a member of the Northern Alliance and claimant to the legacy of Massoud. A journalist and former Minister for Information and Culture, Mansoor accused Karzai of trying to form an elected dictatorship.
The main candidate of the religious right was Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai , leader of the exiled government in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation. Ahmadzai formerly lead a radical Islamist group which was active in the Mujahedin, and later in both the Taleban and Al-Qaida, but has since disavowed any links with them.
Hamyon Shah Aasifi represented monarchist groups, although the former King, Mohammed Zahir Shah, has renounced his claims to be head of state.
Abdul Satar Sirat held several ministerial positions in the early 1970s. Sirat later served as envoy for the exiled King and was initially voted leader of the interim government but stepped aside in favour Karzai.
Masooda Jalal, a medical doctor, was the only female candidate, although two women were nominated for vice-president (Nelab Mobarez runnng with Aasifi and Safiqa Habibi running with Dostum).
Several candidates publicly supported women's rights, including Karzai, Wakil Mangal and, most prominently, the former police colonel Abdul Hasib Aarian . 72-year-old Abdul Hadi Khalilzai , the oldest candidate and a former teacher and religious lawyer, claimed to support women's rights "according to the Constitution, accepted Afghan tradition and the holy religion of Islam".
Latif Pedram , a journalist and poet, and Mohammed Ibrahim Rashid were strong advocates for the rights of Afghan refugees. Sayed Ashaq Gailani , a Muslim intellectual who fought against the Soviet occupation, stood to represent the Sufi Muslim minority. All candidates claimed to be able to build bridges between Afghanistan's various communities and factions. Ghulam Farooq Nejrabi , a paediatric physician and medical lecturer who called for an end to religious, ethnic and sexual discrimination, even claimed he could build bridges with the Taleban. Mahfuz Nedahi , who had served as Minister of Mines and Industry in the interim government, accused the other candidates of running on tribal or party lines and failing to offer a true programme of national unity, while Sayed Abdul Hadi Dabir , an amateur boxer and former fighter in the Mujahedin, criticised tribal nepotism in government appointments and called for a national Ulema to be formed as part of the elected parliament.
Campaigning and Voting
Ballots contained the names of candidates, accompanied by their photo and an icon of their choice. Where appropriate, the icon was the symbol of their political party. However, most candidates ran as independents regardless of their party affiliation, and selected generic icons to distinguish their candidacy.
In order to avoid voting fraud, voters dipped their thumb in ink after they had cast their ballot.
Voting took place in Afghanistan and within refugee communities in several neighbouring countries. Polling centres opened at 6 AM or 7 AM in different areas, and set to close at 4 PM. However, on election day, voting time was officially extended by two hours, but several polling centres closed on time before news of this announcement reached them.
During the campaign there were persistent rumours that the election would be decided by negotiation, as candidates bargained for promises of political position under Karzai (or another candidate) in return for dropping out of the race. There were rumours in September that Sirat and Mohaqiq had formed a pact with Qanuni, whilst Gailani and Aarian declared their support for Karzai on the last day of campaigning (6th October).
On election day there were widespread claims that the ink used to mark voters could be easily removed and that multiple voting had resulted, as well as isolated reports of intimidation and campaigning at the polling centres. All the candidates except Karzai, Gailani and Aarian, publicly declared that they were boycotting the ballot and would ignore the results— effectively uniting Karzai's disparate opponents. Two other major opposition candidates, the Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqeq and the Uzbek General Dostum, soon declared they had not joined the boycott. On October 14, Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum, announced that he too was not part of the boycott.
Journalist Christian Parenti claimed that many people in Afghanistan were in possession of three or four photographic ID cards. He himself, not an Afghan citizen, could have easily voted. "One of the parties gave me two valid voting cards," he said "that I could add my photograph to and I could have voted if I wanted to." 
Other problems reported by Parenti include lack of pens in polling places, not having enough ballots, and differences in closing times of voting stations.
|Candidate (Ethnic Group)
||Party or Political Group
||Number of Votes
||% of Votes
|Hamid Karzai (Pashtun)
|Yunus Qanuni (Tajik)
||Afghan Nationalist Party
|Mohammed Mohaqiq (Hazara)
||Independent (Wahdat Islamic Unity Party)
|Abdul Rashid Dostum (Uzbek)
||Independent (National Islamic Movement)
|Abdul Latif Pedram (Tajik)
||National Congress Party
|Masooda Jalal (Tajik)
|Sayed Ashaq Gailani * (Pashtun)
||National Solidarity Movement
|Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai (Pashtun)
||Independent (Islamic Revolutionary Movement)
|Abdul Satar Sirat (Tajik)
|Hamyon Shah Aasifi (Pashtun)
||Independent (National Unity Party)
|Ghulam Farooq Nejrabi (Tajik)
||Afghan Independence Party
|Sayed Abdul Hadi Dabir (Tajik)
|Abdul Hafiz Mansoor (Tajik)
||Independent (Islamic Society)
|Abdul Hadi Khalilzai (Pashtun)
|Mir Mahfuz Nedahi (Pashtun)
|Mohammed Ibrahim Rashid (Pashtun)
|Wakil Mangal (Pashtun)
|Abdul Hasib Aarian * (Tajik)
- Invalid votes account for 1.3% of total votes.
- Several candidates are listed on the ballot as independents despite recognised affiliation to political parties or groups (indicated in brackets).
- Candidates marked with an asterisk endorsed Hamid Karzai on 6th October, the last day of campaigning; their names remain on the ballot.
- There is one female candidate (Masooda Jalal).