Less than one-fourth of Afghanistan's eligible voters registered, officials say

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Afghan election officials said Wednesday that with just five days left to register, less than one-fourth of the country's eligible voters have signed up to vote in next year's presidential ballot.

The April 5, 2014, election is considered critical as it comes just nine months before the final scheduled withdrawal of international combat troops from Afghanistan.

Noor Mohammed Noor, who is spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, said that roughly 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote, yet barely 2.7 million have registered. The good news, he said, is nearly one million of those who have registered are women.

In an attempt to reach a larger percentage of the population, he said, the commission deployed mobile registration units across the country. But the turnout in some of the violence-wracked southern and eastern regions has been erratic. The registration deadline is Nov. 11.

President Hamid Karzai, in office since the ouster of the Taliban in December 2001, is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term in office.

Abdullah Abdullah, who lost to Karzai in the 2009 presidential contest, is again seeking election, along with former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and Karzai's elder brother Qayyum Karzai.

The 2009 elections were marred by allegations of widespread corruption. Abdullah met last month with Karzai urging him to ensure a clean election race.