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Afghan Elections Will Be Held September 18, State's Burns Says

15 September 2005

Under secretary says acts of intimidation to stop the elections will fail

By Merle Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

New York – Upcoming parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will take place September 18 and they will mark another important step in the quest to establish a fully functioning democracy, says Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns.

“We believe they’ll be held on a democratic basis.  And they’ll provide a parliament for the first time in a very long time for the Afghan people,” Burns said at a September 15 New York Foreign Press Center briefing.

The elections for a 249-seat lower house and for 34 provincial councils are the final step in an international agreement drawn up after the Taliban regime was ousted, and aimed at setting up a democratic, stable government.  (See Democratic Afghanistan.)

Guaranteeing security for the national elections is vital and the United States, its allies and the Afghan national army are prepared to do so, Burns said.

“There are 20,000 American troops in the country.  There are about 12,000 NATO-European troops in the country.  And both NATO and the American coalition forces are providing security along with the Afghan national army forces for the elections themselves,” he said.

Remnants of the Taliban militia and the terrorist group al-Qaida have carried out acts of violence in the last few weeks -- acts of intimidation trying to convince people not to register to vote or to vote, he said.

“We obviously believe that those actions are going to fail.  These elections will be held.  And it’s another very important step in the quest of President [Hamid] Karzai and the Afghan people to establish a fully functioning democracy,” Burns said.  Karzai was elected to a full five-year term in 2004.

In addition, the United Nations has been involved in supporting the administration of the national elections.

“The United States is the largest single donor to the United Nations’ effort.  We are providing $40 million in funds of the $160 million that the United Nations have asked for,” he said.

“There are 12 million people who have registered to vote.  There are 5,800 candidates.  There are 28,000 polling stations.  And there’ll be roughly 6,000 to 7,000 observers of these elections.”

About 12 million of Afghanistan's estimated 25-28 million people are registered to vote in the elections that are being organized by a joint Afghan-U.N. commission.  All Afghans over 18 years old can vote.

Women have been reserved 68 seats in the parliament, which will have a five-year term, and a quarter of the seats on provincial councils.

Asked about talks between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko during a sidelines meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Burns said the United States believes that the Ukraine is headed in the right direction and that the meeting between the two was successful.

“It’s a democratically elected government.  It’s a reformist government.  President Yushchenko and his associates have said time and again to the United States and to their other friends that they intend to maintain a reform course in the country,” he said.  “It’s a very important country for all the world, and we wish to see the democratic revolution succeed.”

What the world has seen in the Ukraine is what has happened in many other countries that have tried to make a successful democratic transition from an authoritarian order, he said.

“It’s not surprising to see this kind of turbulence inside a government, and it really isn’t for us to comment on that,” he said.  “The job that we have is to be a good friend to Ukraine, to support the reform.”

For information on U.S. activities at the United Nations, see The United Nations at 60.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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