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Afghanistan’s Presidential Election

Will the presidential election be a turning point for Afghanistan?

October 5, 2004

Will the presidential election be a turning point for Afghanistan?

Afghanistan's October 9, 2004, presidential election may well become a turning point toward a better future for a war-ravaged and impoverished nation. But many obstacles — from violence to low literacy rates — must be overcome first. And it remains to be seen whether the results will be viewed as fair and legitimate. We compiled the key facts.

First of all, what was a major factor in determining the timing of the election?

The Bush Administration insisted that Afghanistan’s 2004 elections be held before the November 2 elections in the United States.
(NYU Center on International Cooperation)

How many contenders are there?

Afghans will choose from 18 presidential candidates in some 25,000 polling stations across the country.

Do the candidates face a level playing field?

Challengers to President Karzai have not been given the resources to visit the country’s 34 provinces. In contrast, Mr. Karzai, is being flown around Afghanistan by the U.S. military and protected by U.S. body guards.
(New York Times)

Is Mr. Karzai the first member of his family to play a prominent role in Afghan politics?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s father, Abdul, served as speaker of the lower house in the Afghan parliament under the rule of King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who went into exile in 1973. The Taliban assassinated Abdul in Quetta, Pakistan, in 1999.
(Washington Post)

How many voters have been registered?

As of winter 2003, 1.8 million Afghans had registered to vote. That number rose over the summer to more than 10 million.
(New York Times)

What were some of the challenges in registering voters?

Many Afghan citizens were not able to register in the country’s south and south-east because of threats by militants.
(United Nations)

What was curious about voter registration in other parts of the country?

In some provinces, the registration numbers are so high — up to 140% of eligible voters — that it raised fears that there may be massive vote rigging on polling day.
(New York Times)

Will Afghan refugees who live in neighboring countries get to vote?

Some 800,000 Afghans living in Iranian refugee camps and another 1.5 million in Pakistan are expected to vote.

What is one obvious problem that needs to be overcome?

As of 2004, Afghanistan's adult illiteracy is 63.7%.
(Washington Post)

What about Afghanistan's rough terrain?

Pick-ups, four-wheel drives, jeeps, airplanes, helicopters, horses and donkeys will be used to transport polling officials and materials to all over the country.

Can the international community be sure that there won't be widespread fraud?

Only a few hundred foreign observers — mainly UN volunteers — will monitor voting at 25,000 plus polling stations.
(Financial Times)

Will special measures be taken to get women to the polls?

Afghan women comprise 41.3% of the electorate. Men and women will be voting at separate polling stations.

What is one reason few foreigners want to observe the elections?

Some 12 people were killed and another 20 injured in election-related violence over the nine months it took to register voters in Afghanistan.
(United Nations)

Still, in what regard is the election truly an international effort?

Ballot papers were printed in Canada and the 30,300 ballot boxes were built in Denmark.

Can the world feel good about the level of aid that has been provided to Afghanis?

In 2002 and 2003, foreign aid to Afghanistan averaged an estimated $52 per person. That compares to $814 for Kosovo and $1,390 for Bosnia in the two years after war there.
(Rand Corporation)