Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Mohammad Mahfuz Nidai: Nidai Relies on Volunteers

With little money to wage a campaign, the independent candidate is relying on word-of-mouth to win voters' support.
By Mohammad Qaseem

Like anywhere else in the world, campaigning for president in Afghanistan can be a struggle for a candidate with limited means.

Mohammad Mahfuz Nidai, an independent candidate, told IWPR that his ability to campaign in many part of the country has been hampered by a lack of funds.

"We have more economic problems than the other candidates, and we don't have private vehicles to reach everywhere," he said.

The 65-year-old ethnic Pashtun, who lives in a four-room apartment in Kabul's fourth Mikrorayon district, said he was running his campaign out of a relative's house.

"I don't pay office rent," he said. "It is my father-in-law's house, and in addition to my family living there, I use it as an office."

Asked how he was planning to win votes, Nidai said he was relying on a group of volunteers who were hanging his posters from their houses in Peshawar, Pakistan, as well as in some Afghan provinces.

Campaign contributions came mainly from close friends and colleagues, many of who live abroad.

Nidai was born and grew up in and received a doctorate in geochemistry in Moscow in 1972. He speaks Dari, Pashto, English and Russian.

Before deciding to run for office, he was head of the ministry for mines and industry under the interim government of President Hamed Karzai. He was also a member of special commission for the emergency Loya Jirga in 2002. During the civil war in Afghanistan, he remained in the country.

When asked why he was running for president, Nidai said, "First, according to the constitution, every Afghan has the right to forward their candidacy."

Nidai also said that there was no true national candidate among the 17 other contenders and that he could "fill this vacuum" by forming a government that draws on all segments of the population.

Nidai said his economic policy was focused on development of primary and secondary education. If elected, he said, he would concentrate on developing the country's infrastructure. He also pledged to improve the environment.

"We will provide green public space, and we will build rubbish-removing plants in the centre as well as in other provinces," he said.

Nidai also spoke of those guilty of human right violations during his interview with IWPR. He pledged, "Everyone who commits an unforgivable crime, or is an accessory to it, will not be forgiven and will be punished."

As an example, he said that anyone who kidnaps a child should be caught in three days and sentenced to hang.

Asked what kind of support he drew from Afghanistan's various tribes, Nidai said, "Up to now, we haven't met any tribal leaders. We just we met with the people."

He said he was optimistic that Afghans would be receptive to his campaign. Referring to the time allotted to candidates on national broadcast outlets, he said, "I believe that all those people who watched me on television and listened to my speech on the radio accepted me, and everyone who received my leaflets knows that I don't serve any private interest."

Mohammad Qaseem Mukhtari is a freelance writer in Kabul.

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