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Afghanistan Puts Positive Face on Election Schedule - 2004-07-07


Afghan and U.N. officials are expected to announce Thursday the date for Afghanistan's elections. The polls, already delayed once, were rescheduled for September but no date had been set. Official optimism over the poll schedule is clashing with private pessimism that the elections will be held on time.

Despite legal deadlines, attacks on electoral workers, and a looming winter, Afghan officials still say they believe, publicly at least, that Afghans will be able to cast their ballots for a new president and parliament in September as scheduled. Officially, there is still hope that the United Nations, under whose auspices the polls will be held, can organize everything in time.

But doubts are now creeping in. Following the meeting of the joint U.N.-Afghan election committee Wednesday, talk that the presidential and parliamentary polls will have to be held separately made the delay seem more likely.

Afghan Ambassador to the United States Said Tayeb Jawad told VOA that President Hamid Karzai is committed to holding both polls together. But the ambassador concedes that the parliamentary elections may have to pushed back.

"We are hoping to be able to have both elections on time as scheduled. But if there will be any delays, that delay will most likely affect the parliamentary election," he said.

Although the Afghan interim government would prefer to hold the presidential and parliamentary polls together, Mr. Jawad says the parliamentary poll is more complicated and needs more organization.

"The parliamentary election is more complex because we have issues regarding some of the new provinces and some of the new administrative units and a formula for the participation of Afghans living abroad, and how they're going to participate and how they're going to vote in the parliamentary elections," he said.

The polls have already been delayed once. They were rescheduled from June to an undetermined date in September to give additional time to register voters and cope with security headaches from the remnants of the Taleban regime, who have pledged to disrupt the electoral process. Three foreign and some 20 Afghan electoral workers have already been killed during the voter registration process.

Mr. Jawad says, however, that the problems surrounding the election are primarily logistical. "The main obstacle right now is really logistics, the possibility of having everybody registered to vote, and also working out some other legal and administrative issues as far as the parliamentary election is concerned," he said. "Security is really not a main concern at this point."

Afghan security forces are supposed to provide security during the election, but they are still being trained. NATO has pledged to boost the strength of the international peacekeeping force, which remains primarily confined to the environs of Kabul, from 6,500 to 8,700. International analysts have said, however, that will be far from sufficient to deter any determined effort to disrupt the elections.