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Fact Sheet: Elections in Afghanistan

On October 9, 2004, the Afghan people will make history when they hold their nation's first direct presidential election. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for next spring.

"The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under difficult conditions... They've adopted a constitution that protects the rights of all, while honoring their nation's most cherished traditions. More than 10 million Afghan citizens - over 4 million of them women - are now registered to vote ... To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer."    
                                                                                                                                    -- President Bush, September 21, 2004
The Election Process: Key Facts

      • According to the United Nations, more than 10 million                    Afghans have registered to vote in spite of uncertain security           and attacks on some polling sites and election workers. 41           percent of registered voters are women.

      • The government of Afghanistan and the United Nations have            formed the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) to            supervise the election and ensure a transparent and            credible election process.

      • 18 presidential candidates, including one female candidate,            are running in the election.

      • Polling will take place at some 22,000 polling stations            throughout Afghanistan, as well as in Afghan refugee camps            in Pakistan and Iran. There are some 600,000 eligible voters            in Iran and more than 600,000 in Pakistan.

      • To ensure that no one votes more than once, each voter's            right index finger will be stained with a long-lasting ink            before the voter leaves the polling station. In addition, each            voter's registration card number will be recorded and his or            her card punched.

      • International monitors and support teams from the            European Union, the Organization for Security and            Cooperation in Europe, the United States, and the Asia            Network for Free Elections will be in Afghanistan for the            election, joining Afghan observers.

      • In order to ensure that ballots are counted in a transparent            manner, the media will have access to the eight tabulation            centers. Because of the ruggedness of the terrain, the            remoteness of many towns and villages in the country, and            the need to ensure transparent and credible counting of the            paper ballots, it could take up to four weeks to tabulate the            official results.

      • A run-off election would take place between the two top            candidates if no candidate receives a majority of the            vote.                

          If necessary, a run-off would be held two weeks after the           official results are certified.

    • The United States has worked closely with Afghan leaders           and international partners in preparing for this historic           election. The United States to date has provided $78 million           (40 percent) of the $198 million needed to prepare for and           carry out the election.

The Long March to Elections

     • Afghan representatives from all over the country came           together in a Loya Jirga (or grand council) in 2003 to choose           an interim government and establish procedures for           adopting a constitution.

     • A draft constitution was distributed throughout Afghanistan in           2003, and Afghans from all walks of life joined the official           Constitutional Debate.

     • In the autumn of 2003, meetings were held at the local and           provincial levels to select delegates for the Loya Jirga           meeting in December to debate the draft and adopt the new           constitution. More than 90 of the 500 delegates participating           in the Loya Jirga were women.

     • The Constitutional Loya Jirga convened on December 14,           2003, and after three weeks of debate, negotiation, and           compromise, it approved a new constitution on January 4,           2004.

     • The constitution establishes a democracy with an executive           branch and a bicameral legislature. The lower house will be           chosen by direct elections, while the upper house will be           evenly divided between representatives selected by           provisional councils, representatives selected by district           councils, and presidential appointees. Checks and balances           exist between the branches of government.

     • President Karzai signed a new electoral law on May 25, 2004.

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