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Afghanistan Prepares To Vote

As Afghans prepare for the September 18th elections, officials are setting up procedures to ensure that the voting is free and fair.

Richard Atwood is chief of operations for the joint United Nations–Afghan election commission. He says voting materials are being distributed and safeguards created to prevent fraud. One measure: voters will dip their fingers in indelible ink to prevent multiple voting. "We are confident," said Mr. Atwood, "that all these measures will preserve the integrity of the vote."

More than two-thousand-seven-hundred candidates have been declared eligible to run for two-hundred-forty-nine parliamentary lower house seats. Over three-thousand candidates are running for seats in Afghanistan's provincial councils.

Security remains an important concern. U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in written report to the U-N Security Council that extremist violence "continues to thwart the basic aspiration of Afghanis who seek peace, stability, and a normal life."

In some areas, candidates and election workers have been attacked by extremists. "The Taleban are threatening to kill anyone connected to the elections," said Gul Havid, police chief in the Ata Ghar district of Zabul province.

Zarmina Pathan is a candidate for parliament from Qalat, Zabul province's principal city. "The Taleban have threatened to kill me if I don’t withdraw," she said, "but I am going to become a member of parliament so I can fight for women's rights."

Shukria Barakzai, another woman candidate, says that despite security concerns, Afghans will vote. "People are a bit excited, especially women," she said. "They trust that women can change society, bring peace."

President George W. Bush says the United States is giving its full support to the Afghan political process:

"In Afghanistan, men and women have formed a free government after suffering one of the most brutal tyrannies on Earth."

Mr. Bush said that "America is proud to call Afghanistan an ally in the war on terror."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.