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6/25/04 - AFGHAN ELECTIONS - 2004-06-25


Remnants of the Taleban are trying to prevent Afghans from registering to vote in September’s national elections. There have been attacks against United Nations registration workers and Afghan personnel in the provinces of Kandahar and Logar. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, says, “We want the people of Afghanistan to have a chance to elect their own president and parliament without fear.”

Jean Arnault, the U-N’s special representative to Afghanistan, says that the targeting of U-N vehicles and registration offices “is clearly an attempt at undermining the process.” To ensure that the election goes as planned, Germany is helping to train twenty-thousand Afghan police. The U.S., Britain, France and Germany are training the new Afghan army. The police and army will be located in areas where they can respond quickly to threats. But with more than four-thousand polling places in Afghanistan, providing security will be difficult. “There are hard challenges coming up,” says Ambassador William Taylor, the U.S. Coordinator for Afghanistan:

“Security is going to be an enormous challenge for Afghans and for the international community. The international community needs to step up to this security issue. The Taleban really don’t want these elections to succeed. They really see, as we do, that this is an opportunity for the Afghan people to decide who runs the country.”

More than ten-million Afghans are eligible to vote for president and for members of parliament. Mr. Taylor says that more than four-million have already been registered:

“The U-N is actually doing a pretty good job after a slow start. They have picked it up and recently Afghans are going to the U-N-run registration centers in droves. They are registering a hundred thousand every week.... Thirty-six percent, by the way, are women -- a major accomplishment in this part of the world.”

September, says Ambassador Taylor, will be the first time that this generation of Afghans will have the opportunity to vote in a free election.

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