By Anna Mulrine, Washington Whispers
Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, the leading challenger to incumbent Hamid Karzai, has launched an Internet fundraising campaign modeled on that run by President Barack Obama. The plan is to appeal to "relatively young people outside the country," says one campaign worker. "Our target audience are Afghans who don't think the current situation—corruption, crime, drugs, violence, warlordism—has to continue." The Internet drive with a Web page is aimed at expatriates, who cannot vote but have been contributing an average of $10 to $20 since the Internet campaign was launched, according to the campaign. The first contributor, they point out by way of example, was a University of Massachusetts student. The total contributions thus far have been modest, but the campaign remains optimistic. "If this trend continues, if the contributions continue at this pace, there's an opportunity not just to build a sizable war chest," says the campaign worker, "but to set an example for the future. If you can do this in Afghanistan, you can do it anywhere." Ghani, who was a candidate for the post of secretary general of the United Nations in 2006, has a base of support among Afghans who point to his reform-minded initiatives and development projects during his time as Afghanistan's finance minister from 2002 to 2004.