Ashraf Ghani is the most westernised and technocratic of all the candidates standing in the Afghan elections but, lacking a broad support base, he has lagged in the polls behind the other two main candidates Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah.
He played no part in Afghan politics until the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. After a decade at the World Bank, where he had worked on the reform of the Russian coal industry among other things, he quit his job and returned to Afghanistan.
In November 2002, he accepted an appointment as a special advisor to the United Nations and assisted Lakhdar Brahimi, the special representative of the secretary-general to Afghanistan, to prepare the Bonn Agreement, the process and document that provided the basis of transfer of power to the people of Afghanistan.
The following year he was appointed finance minister in Hamed Karzai’s new government, where he became popular with international donors and gained a reputation for efficiency, travelling the world to drum up support for the country.
He instituted regular reporting to the cabinet, the people of Afghanistan, and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency and accountability.
After Mr Karzai’s election as president in October 2004, Mr Ghani declined to join the cabinet and asked to be appointed as head of Kabul University. The move was widely seen in Kabul as the result of a personality clash with President Karzai and there were complaints from finance ministry officials about Mr Ghani’s abrasive management style.
In 2005, he founded the Institute for State Effectiveness to help develop integrated approaches to state building. He has been a vocal critic of Mr Karzai’s failure to tackle corruption and, of the three leading candidates, has presented the most detailed manifesto, calling for a quadrupling of rural incomes and promising a million new jobs. He also wants to close the controversial prison at the US military base in Bagram north of Kabul within three years.
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