KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s older brother Qayum will run in next year’s presidential election, their younger brother said, as the country’s most powerful family seeks to maintain a political hold in Afghanistan.
President Karzai is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term when the country votes for a new head of state on April 5.
“Qayum will announce his candidacy soon and will represent our political movement ... the party will run his election campaign,” Mahmoud Karzai told Reuters in an interview at his home in the southern city of Kandahar.
Qayum Karzai will have the backing of De Woles De Mulatar Baheer, or the Movement for the Support of the People, which is dominated by the country’s powerful Pashtun ethnic group. The group has no affiliation with the incumbent president.
Neither Qayum nor Hamid Karzai’s office could be reached for comment.
Kabul-based political analysts said, however, that the president would likely support his bid, as it would guarantee he would not be investigated for mismanagement or corruption during his time as leader.
“President Karzai wants someone to succeed him who should not review his performance (while in power) and there is no doubt he will support his brother Qayum,” said independent analyst Ahmad Sayeedi.
But some analysts say that Qayum’s decision to run without his powerful brother’s backing could indicate a family rift. Across his two terms as president he has had a rocky relationship with many of his close family members.
Last week, Mahmoud told a gathering in the family’s birthplace, Kandahar, that if Qayum was elected a top priority would be ending the widespread corruption.
“If Qayum comes to power we will take the corruption issue very seriously; it has defamed us to the whole world,” he told the crowd.
After more than a decade of war and billions of dollars in aid, corruption in Afghanistan is rampant.
In January a report by the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime said corruption was costing Afghanistan $2.5 billion a year, equivalent to about a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product.
Afghanistan relies on foreign aid for the bulk of its spending, but many international donors say they are reluctant to channel aid through Afghanistan because they fear it will be stolen by corrupt politicians and officials.
Mahmoud Karzai, who reportedly dropped his U.S. citizenship early this year in order to pursue an Afghan political career, was a key shareholder in Kabul Bank during the period marked by a $900 million fraud case.
That case saw the bank collapse in 2010, though Mahmoud was spared a jail sentence following a presidential decree that granted immunity to those who repaid funds. Mahmoud denied any wrongdoing and said he repaid $22 million.
The credibility of next year’s vote will be vital to the security and stability of the country, with NATO withdrawing most of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Additional reporting and writing by Hamid Shalizi, Editing by Dylan Welch and Jeremy Laurence