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10/3/04 - ELECTION IN AFGHANISTAN  - 2004-10-04

More than ten-million Afghan men and women are registered to vote in the October 9th presidential election. Eighteen candidates are running. They include Hamid Karzi, head of Afghanistan’s interim government. Two other candidates are Abdul Rashid Dostum, a self-proclaimed leader of minority Uzbeks and Turkmens, and Yunus Qanooni, a former education minister. Homayun Shah Asifi, a member of the family of Afghanistan's former king, is also a candidate. And Masooda Jalal is the only woman campaigning for the presidency.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, says he has met with all the presidential candidates to hear their ideas and proposals:

“Our role is to support the [election] process so Afghans have the opportunity to elect their leader. Who they elect is their decision.”

Not everyone is happy with the election process in Afghanistan. The warlords are “forces of the past,” says Ambassador Khalilzad, and “their days are numbered.... If they want to be part of the future of Afghanistan, they will have to reform. Or end up in...some jail somewhere.”

Despite warlords and others opposed to democracy, President George W. Bush says that “Freedom is finding a way in...Afghanistan”:

“The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult conditions. They’re fighting to defend their nation from Taleban holdouts, and helping to strike against the terrorist killers. They’re reviving their economy. They’ve adopted a constitution that protects the rights of all, while honoring their nation’s most cherished traditions.... To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer.”

“In my country’s history, this is the first election,” Andul Fatah Jabarkhail, an Afghan student, told a reporter. “The people of Afghanistan,” he says, “are very happy for these elections.”