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Embassy Press Releases


July 23, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With less than one month to go until Afghanistan's second presidential election in history and first Afghan-led electoral contest in over three decades, preparations continue to ensure that all eligible Afghan voters can cast their ballots freely, fairly and securely.

"Our first presidential election was historic, but this election will mark the continued maturity and growth of Afghanistan’s pluralistic political system," said Ambassador Said T. Jawad. "Despite security and logistical challenges, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC), the Afghan government and the international community are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that the will of the people can be expressed through the ballot box on August 20."

Forty-one candidates are vying for the presidency, while 82 candidates are contesting the vice-presidency. Some 3,195 are seeking seats on provincial councils. The number of candidates for all positions increased from the last round of elections in 2004 and 2005, and the rise is most pronounced amongst female candidates. The number of women running for the presidency doubled, female vice-presidential contenders increased from 2 to 7 and contenders for provincial council seats jumped 20 percent.

The process of voter registration took place from October 2008 to March 2009, during which an additional 4 million Afghans registered to vote. The voter rolls now total over 16 million Afghans, of which 35 percent are women.

The IEC has continued logistical preparations for the August poll, as millions of paper ballots arrived in Kabul over the weekend on four flights. The commission has also established a free phone helpline and increased the number of operators so as to handle the 30,000 to 40,000 weekly phone calls. More than 1,600 civic educators are briefing voters across the country with an 11-page flip chart detailing the process. The commission has also started a massive broadcasting campaign of informational television and radio advertising spots and has expanded the reach of the Electoral Complaints Commission.

Over 8,000 election monitors will be deployed around Afghanistan, and 47,000 Afghan National Police officers will be deployed for election security. (Some 35,000 police officers have recently completed special training to help secure polling places). NATO countries will provide 8,000 to 10,000 additional troops to allow Afghans to vote securely. Security will be organized in three rings, with Afghan National Police in the first ring closest to the polling place, Afghan National Army officers manning a second ring and U.S. and NATO troops in a third, outer ring. The Afghan government has assigned two security guards to protect each presidential candidate.

Security challenges remain, though. In 188 districts the security threat remains low, in 48 districts the threat is moderate and 120 districts are suffering from high security threats. Eight districts are under partial control of the enemy of the Afghan people.

"Despite being a young institution working under difficult circumstances, the IEC has shown both independence and the commitment to making Afghanistan’s second presidential election take place successfully," remarked Ambassador Jawad. "The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are fully mobilized so that the Afghan people can exercise their democratic rights, and we appreciate that valuable support of U.S. and NATO forces."

In a survey by the Asia Foundation in late 2008, 76 percent of the Afghan people indicated that democracy was their preferred system of government. Additionally, 72 percent expressed their faith that the Afghan government and its institutions could hold free and fair elections.


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