Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah joined a field of 17 candidates for July’s presidential election as nominations closed yesterday.

Other prominent contenders for the post include Hanif Atmar, who resigned as national security adviser last year because of differences with Mr Ghani on policy issues, as well as former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Each candidate has two vice presidents also running on their ticket.

The July 20 election is being held three months late because of security concerns and to fix logistical problems faced in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections in October.

After weeks of rapidly shifting alliances among the main political players, Mr Ghani named one of his sternest critics, former spy chief Amrullah Saleh, as his pick for first vice ­president.

Mr Saleh was appointed interior minister last month but resigned on Saturday to be able to register for the election.

“Even as a critic of this government, I must say Ashraf Ghani has made a very smart move by bringing Mr Saleh on board,” political analyst Ejaz Malikzada said.

Mr Malikzada said allying with Mr Saleh would silence some of Mr Ghani’s opponents or win their support.

“As interior minister for the past 27 days, Mr Saleh has already shown that he can work alongside Mr Ghani and deliver results,” he said.

He was referring to drastic reforms Mr Saleh introduced, such as giving more power to the police while imposing stricter accountability on officials, and acting against corruption.

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