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Afghan Delegation to Observe Philippine Elections - 2004-05-11

More than 120 international observers descended on the Philippines to monitor the country's just-completed elections, among them a delegation from Afghanistan.

International observers usually attend elections to help look out for irregularities. Soon-to-be-democratic Afghanistan sent a team of observers to the Philippines this week to learn some lessons.

The 10-member Afghan team joined poll watchers from the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia in monitoring the Philippines' lengthy and often violent election process.

The Afghans are looking forward to their first-ever direct presidential election, scheduled for September of this year. Philippine election officials are dealing with some of the same problems the Afghans will face at home: underdeveloped infrastructure, poor communications, private armies and armed insurgencies, to name just a few.

Afghanistan has been ravaged by decades of war and neglect, and delegation member Mirwais Wardak says officials preparing for the September poll will have to contend with everything from bad roads to bandits.

"We have many challenges," said Mr. Wardak. "We have still people in the provinces who are armed people, I mean they can anytime destroy the process and three months is not that much time to disarm?all these local and private militias."

Mr. Wardak says he found Monday's voting in the Philippines to be generally peaceful and orderly even though there were some incidents of violence and flaws in the balloting process, the same type of thing the Afghans can anticipate when they return home.