International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

October 8, 2004

October 8, 2004





**  Global media display "profound concern over possible security problems."

**  Critics doubt the election's "credibility," optimists call it an "historic step."

**  Karzai slated for victory due to West's support, many observers predict.

**  Pro-government Afghan media portray a "keenly participating" population.




      'More extensive assistance by international forces' necessary--  Papers characterized security arrangements as "woefully inadequate," with Euro writers judging Afghanistan as "ill-prepared" and predicting its elections will "fall far short of internationally acceptable standards."  Italy's liberal Il Foglio, among others, described the security situation as "a logistical nightmare."  Afghanistan's pro-government Anis praised the presence of the ISAF as a "ray of hope" but called for "further security measures." 


Media debate over 'legitimacy of the elections'--  Euro papers warned that the Afghan election "runs the risk of becoming a farce."  France's Catholic La Croix stated that "conditions have not yet been met for a peaceful democratic transition."  Afghan papers expressed concern over "attacks and poisonous propaganda" launched by warlords, the Taliban, and al-Qaida, which have "undermined people's confidence."  The lack of security could have potential "harmful effects on the Afghan citizens' turnout in the elections," Iranian media noted.  Japan's liberal Mainichi agreed that "low voter turnout would raise questions about the legitimacy of the election."  Global dailies raised additional concerns that the situation for Afghan women will "become worse" and that the vote was "stirring up" ethnic issues.  Though optimists acknowledged that the election would be "far-from-perfect," they called it a "historic step," far better than no election at all.


Outlets consider Karzai's victory 'inevitable'--  Many observers expected Afghans to choose president Karzai, the "friend of Americans."  According to Germany's center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine, Afghan voters view Karzai as "a guarantee for more international aid and putting warlords in their place."  Pro-government Afghan papers predicted that "Karzai's victory is practically certain."  Iranian media criticized Karzai for imposing "an unfair contest...enjoying the support of the U.S.A. and other Western countries."  A few writers dissented, concluding that "Karzai cannot win the elections as easily as is predicted."


Afghan media portray a people 'committed to pursuing democracy'--  Pro-government papers observed that the Afghan people "enthusiastically" participated in the campaign and "are well acquainted with their politicians."  Independent Kabul Weekly claimed that the Afghan people "believe that their peace, security and prosperity depend on the success of the elections."  Conversely, Saharr, owned by an Afghan NGO, criticized the "extremely upbeat" coverage of the election process by the state-owned media.  Iranian media characterized the elections as "unfair" due to the "relatively low level of political knowledge" among Afghan voters.


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR: Gloria Kim


EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 83 reports from 18 countries over 14 September - 9 October 2004.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




AFGHANISTAN:  "Three Days Before The Presidential Election"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis editorialized (10/6):  "Our people are impatiently and optimistically waiting for 9 October, a day when millions of people will go to the polls to vote for and elect their president for the next five years....  The people are hoping for a bright and prosperous future illuminated by democracy.  Therefore, they have enthusiastically attended presidential candidates' campaign meetings in the capital and provinces.  They believe that the feeling of patriotism will help the future leadership achieve political progress and establish a national government based on popular participation, the principles of democracy and guided by the national interest.  Our people are well acquainted with their politicians and the presidential candidates who want to come to power through this election.  They well understand that some of the candidates would run their campaigns using force and the gun were the international community not present in Afghanistan....  It is crystal clear that the outcome of the election will be decided in the very final moments of the election. If the election leads to a second round, the situation will become even more complicated.  It depends on the Afghan nation as to whom they will consider the most entitled to the presidency and capable of serving the nation.  The vote of the people will determine who will finally win the election with a majority of votes after so much speculation and so many doubts about the election campaign."


"Our People's Desire Is To Establish A Government Based On Social Justice"


Ziarmal Alkuzai wrote in pro-government national evening daily Anis (10/6):  "As our people have got the opportunity to determine their fate through the presidential elections, we believe they will vote for a person who can serve the country and is honest and loyal to the public treasury.  We witnessed that our country went through chaotic times and troubles because of the crimes committed by unelected and factional leaders during the past 10 years.  They undermined our national unity and threatened to divide the country.  The government was so weak that it could not ensure security in areas close to the capital and no-one obeyed its orders.  As a result, the country turned into the hub of terrorism.  Moreover, the Taliban's puppet government attempted to destroy our cultural and traditional values and shatter our national unity to isolate the brotherly ethnic groups from each other. But, with the assistance of the international community and the United Nations, we have been given a golden opportunity to salvage the country from isolation and reclaim our position in the international community....  A number of foreign puppets and self-centred people oppose the establishment of an independent, prosperous and competent government that can administer the entire country from the capital in accordance with the constitution to fulfil people's desires and restore the economy. We want to establish a government that can ensure stability and demonstrate its legitimacy at national and international level to repair the damage caused by the past two decades of wars and lead the country towards development....  Our people are committed to pursuing democracy. They will choose a patriotic person who can enforce law, democracy, and serve the people."


"The Elections Will Be In A Peaceful Climate Despite The Government's Concern"


Self-proclaimed independent Kabul Weekly wrote (10/4):  "The Afghan people are impatiently waiting for...the day on which millions of people will go to the polls....  They believe that their peace, security and prosperity depend on the success of the elections.  They are also looking forward to other major achievements after the elections.  However, they are concerned and anxious....  The presence of the international community is the only ray of hope encouraging people to be optimistic about the success of the elections and their future....  They understand that the candidates would have taken the path of confrontation and resorted to using force and guns had the international community not been present in Afghanistan.  The people are also concerned because high-ranking government officials are continuously warning of possible attacks by the Taliban and Al-Qa'idah in the run-up to the election....  The incidents over the last three years prove that the Taliban, Al-Qa'ida and Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Eslami party are not in a position to disrupt the election process countrywide....  Generally, we ought not to be afraid of armed people. They cannot affect the election results....  Spreading rumors, as though armed men were threatening the election campaigns, is sheer false propaganda....  Government officials ought not to frighten people about security threats facing the elections.  They should let people vote for their preferred candidates with equanimity and confidence."


"Elections Need Further Security Measures"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis editorialized (10/4):  "The expansion of NATO forces in the run-up to the [Afghan] election demonstrates the long-standing commitment of the international community towards Afghanistan.  Not only do the Afghan people welcome the deployment of further NATO troops in Afghanistan, but also countries that support a democratic and fair election in Afghanistan, free from security fears, regard this move as an encouraging step....  The way events are developing shows that the country requires further security measures in order to hold the presidential election in a peaceful climate and to pave the way for people to participate in the election without fear or intimidation.  If the security and safety of voters are not ensured and the tensions of voter intimidation by warlords and gunmen are not removed, the voters cannot freely participate in the election in a way that could reflect the real votes of the people.  Therefore, the expansion of NATO forces is tantamount to supporting and protecting the election that paves the way for the development of democracy in Afghanistan.  NATO's decision to increase its troops could also play an active role in preventing the activities of terrorists, who are deemed to be a serious threat to the election process and democracy in Afghanistan.  As a result, the expansion of NATO forces demonstrates that it realistically deals with the situation in Afghanistan.  It also shows NATO's historic commitment to development in Afghanistan and to leading our country towards peace, democracy and stability."


"Armed Moves In Favour Of Candidates"


Independent daily Erada editorialized (10/4):  "Our wish was to take effective steps to create a democratic and free atmosphere in which to hold presidential elections in accordance with the constitution.  Despite these hopes, attacks, and poisonous propaganda launched by the enemy, warlords and their supporters have undermined people's confidence in the current democratic atmosphere.  Our compatriots can see that obstacles are created to the election campaigns in the run-up to the elections.  Armed men obstruct the presidential candidates' election campaigns....  Some tribes have announced that they will set fire to the houses of those who do not vote for their chosen candidate.  This has undermined the confidence of the international community and the Afghan people in a democratic atmosphere....  This could deter many voters from taking part in the elections.  As a result of the mild treatment of armed men and enemies, problems have been created for holding fair and democratic elections.  They have created obstacles in the way of implementing democracy.  Moreover, supporters of every candidate are exploiting government facilities.  Such acts will not only hamper the country's reconstruction, but will also undermine national unity, country-wide security and democracy."




State-run Eslah opined (10/3):  "We doubt whether Afghanistan's own security forces can safeguard the elections....  Some have been involved in defacing posters of candidates standing against Mr Karzai.  Security officials are supposed to provide conditions for people to cast their votes freely and fearlessly....  Reports indicate that security forces in Kabul have been observed tearing down posters....  If the police carry out such activities in the capital, warlords and gunmen will undoubtedly mock the values of democracy in more remote areas."


"Practically Certain"


Independent weekly Watandar held (10/3):  "Karzai's victory is practically certain....  The people believe that Karzai will win the elections and that the other presidential candidates are not hopeful about their chances of success....  He is the only one of the 18 candidates who will be acceptable to the outside world.  The international community and donor countries do not trust the other presidential candidates....  They understand that these candidates are protected by local warlords."


"Broader Appeal"


Independent weekly Cheragh noted (10/3):  "Karzai, a Pashtun, made a strategic choice of running mates--the ethnic Tajik Ahmad Zia Masud and the Hazara Mohammad Karim Khalili--precisely to assure victory by broadening his appeal....  Hamid Karzai did not appoint his running mates based on their political affiliations, but chose them considering their tribal influence, so as to win a majority of votes from the two tribes to which his running mates belong."


"General Elections, Warlords And Terrorism"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis editorialized (10/3):  "In order to win the hearts of the war-torn Afghan nation and attain the presidential post, Afghan leader Hamed Karzai's team will never form a coalition and share power with those responsible for destroying the country and for the mass killing and recognized as warlords on a national and an international level.  There are a number of candidates who...have a desire for ethnic, regional, language and religious hegemony, and aim to undermine democracy and lead Afghanistan towards a political crisis and instability....  Taking into consideration the above-mentioned points, our compatriots will not choose a person who aims to humiliate the country rather than developing and respecting it.  We wholeheartedly back and thank Hamed Karzai for not forming a coalition with the warlords.  We vehemently criticize the terrorists...and call them the enemies of our country's territorial integrity and Islam.  We also hate warlords....  They can create obstacles to our future economic, social, cultural and political programs and disappoint our people.  God willing, they will face disappointment in the general elections....  We hope a coalition government will not be established."


"Extension Of German Armed Forces' Mandate In Afghanistan - An Encouraging Event"


Independent daily Erada (10/3):  "The peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan is very important and is constantly developing....  On the one hand, our country is in a volatile security situation and opposition forces are persistently trying to undermine security, while on the other, it is entirely devastated and is in dire need of construction and reconstruction.  It is hoped that our lost prosperity will return and quell the mounting tension and address all aspects of our difficulties....  Since the Bonn Conference and the establishment of the interim government in Afghanistan, Germany has done good work to maintain security and carry out reconstruction programs. It has outdone other countries in helping Afghanistan so far....  The German parliament, which is made up of many left-wing and right-wing political parties, approved the extension of the German forces' mandate in Afghanistan....  This move by German officials is extremely encouraging.  Germans are vigorously carrying out extensive programs to aid reconstruction and maintain security in Kabul, Konduz and Badakhshan Provinces.  It is worth mentioning that the Afghan people are highly indebted to the generous assistance of the Germans."


"The Election Is Facing A Wave Of Threats And Intimidation"


Dari-language Panjara opined (10/2):  "The Taliban have openly said that they would kill anyone participating in the forthcoming Afghan election....  This is a serious challenge facing the election and security in Afghanistan....  The lack of security and stability could adversely affect the election....  Therefore, it is the duty of the international security forces and the Afghan government to take practical measures to provide security for the elections and avert the threats and attacks being carried out in many parts of the country.  Otherwise, the legitimacy of the elections as the first test of democracy will be brought into question."


"Karzai Undermines Security"


Weekly Payam-e Mojahed opined (9/30):  "Karzai's government and the Western media that support him are always warning of voter intimidation and threats posed by local commanders in the election campaign....  Nevertheless, Karzai has dealt with the perpetrators that intimidated the voters as amiably and affectionately as though they had scored some achievements for the nation....  All his efforts are aimed at extending his rule over Afghanistan....  Karzai may remain in power, but his actions have called into question the legitimacy of the elections.  Therefore, the future government will not enjoy the support of a majority of the people.  Unfortunately, the golden chance to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan is being destroyed by the transitional government and its foreign supporters.  Action speaks louder than words.  Democracy cannot be implemented in the country only by chanting slogans.  If the government authorities wanted to extend Karzai's tenure for security reasons, they could have done so through talks and negotiations with national groups.  However, predetermining the election results is the gravest mistake committed by Karzai and his international allies."


"Complicated Questions About Strategy"


Independent daily newspaper Erada opined (9/30):  "Security and military officials, as well as the national and international media, have displayed profound concern over possible security problems during the polling days.  These statements have raised questions among the people.  No-one knows why trivial problems are made so complicated....  The USA has a close relationship with Pakistan and has recently donated billions of dollars to Pakistan.  However, the question arises as to why the USA has not yet been able to make Pakistan arrest these terrorists....  The Taliban are allegedly the greatest obstacles to the Afghan election campaign and the closest supporters of Al-Qa'idah...  The Pakistani president is undoubtedly aware of areas where these terrorists reside, but it is trying to deceive the USA.  The USA has sustained heavy human and material losses in the fight against terror, and the people of America want this monster i.e. Al-Qa'idah to be legally tried.  Then, why are US efforts proving futile, although the US troops are stationed in close proximity to these elements residing on the other side of the border?  The last question is whether arresting Bin Laden and his allies and rescuing the world, particularly the United States, are intertwined with the forthcoming US presidential elections or any other strategy.  This is a complicated issue that has puzzled political analysts."


"Karzai And People"


Awa-e Waqt wrote (9/29):  "Many political analysts of Afghan affairs believe that [Afghan leader Hamed] Karzai is more popular than any other presidential candidate and that there is a strong likelihood he will win the forthcoming election with a majority of votes....  Karzai has achieved popularity amongst the people by rescuing Afghanistan from perpetual wars, bloodshed, and chaos.  He has also relatively strengthened national unity in Afghanistan.  He understands people's problems....  Although he has failed to tackle administrative corruption and eradicate narcotic drugs, he is praised for his honesty and admission of his failures....  For that reason, he is trusted by the people and is preferred by the people to other candidates.  The analysts say that presidential candidates complain about and criticize Karzai because they psychologically suffer from frustration.  They say that presidential candidates anticipate they cannot defeat Karzai at the election campaign.  Thus they resort to levelling criticisms and objections at him....  The outcome of the election will show whether or not these analyses are true and authentic. Therefore, it is better to wait for the elections to see who will be fortunate enough to become the future president of Afghanistan."


"You Can Eat Jam If You Have A Jam-Maker"


Independent weekly Cheragh (9/28):  "It is clear why Mr Karzai and his team are not willing to campaign through the media in the current situation, the moments of which are crucial and decisive.  The world mass media...have...overwhelmed public opinion throughout the world and across the country, which makes Mr Karzai's success inevitable.  Moreover...the state-run willing to advocate certain candidates whose victory will result in promoting them [press bosses] now and in the future.  Since everything is to the advantage of a particular candidate, is it not advisable for Mr Karzai's campaign team not to take the trouble to campaign in such an insecure situation just to get a few thousand votes.  According to Mr Khalili, they are lazy on the one hand, but on the other hand they are so lucky because for them this [laziness] is not a problem.  Our people, who are observing and covering the election process, have noticed that even the UN cannot maintain its indifference and impartiality, that the country's leaders are striking a deal and the...people's expectations and dreams are being slaughtered at the feet of a lucky candidate [Hamed Karzai].  So they remember a saying: You can eat jam if you have a jam-maker."


"How Should The Election Be Like?"


Independent daily Arman-e Melli (9/28):  "Neither the postponement of the parliamentary election nor the extension of the tenure of the head of state, at the end of a certain period, is acceptable.  They are considered a violation of the law, unjust and against the national interest....  So, the election planned for the nation cannot duly create confidence and fails to resolve the problems.  The outcome of the election is pre-determined.  There are a lot of national and international efforts to keep the head of the transitional state in power by any means possible.  It goes without saying that all the facilities of the transitional state and the foreign material and military assistance have been put at the disposal of a certain person since long ago.  This indicates how far the distance between the words and actions is."


"Why Are Not People Allowed To Vote Freely?"


Independent daily Erada opined (9/27):  "The slogans of peace, democracy and freedom have been chanted since the establishment of interim administration in Afghanistan.  The government has made several achievements to improve our living standards.  Following these achievements, productive steps were taken to make our people's lives prosperous and rebuild the country....  Now elections will be held in accordance with the constitution....  It seems that in addition to the threats posed by armed men and terrorists, a number of other elements want to disrupt the forthcoming presidential elections and undermine freedom and democracy and to prevent compatriots from attending polling stations or make them vote for a particular person....  People in other regions may also punish and burn down houses of those who do not vote for some candidates.  As a result, democracy and freedom will be undermined.  The Joint Electoral Management Body, departments and officials should tackle this issue in the provinces and districts.  This will not only create a free and democratic atmosphere, but will also prevent human rights violation.  People should be free to vote for their ideal candidate in a free atmosphere."


"The Demand For Postponing The Elections"


Pro-government English-language Kabul Times opined (9/26):  "Some of the presidential candidates have been asking President [Hamed] Karzai to have the election put off for another month, which is now scheduled on 9 October....  If presidential elections are postponed for another month, such activities on the part of warlords in almost all provinces will be doubled or trebled....  In addition to that, arrangements have been made on an elaborate scale for holding the election on 9 October and putting off the date for one whole month will upset everything....  Meanwhile, the postponement will indicate, especially to our friends and well-wishers abroad, that Afghans do not have the merit to hold an election and therefore, they do not deserve a democratic dispensation.  This will have a negative impact on the quantity of their contributions.  Every country, developed or underdeveloped, needs to maintain a favourable image in the world....  The second postponement of the elections will harm our national image which is luckily enough [sufficiently satisfactory] this time, thanks to the skill and proficiency of the authorities.  The international community, now on our side, may get the impression that the Afghans who were thought to be adept in democratic government through the Jerga system are wishy washy."


"Responsible Election Bodies Take Practical Measures"


Independent weekly Cheragh (9/26):  "The UN and the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) have recently given permission to 32 political parties to monitor the election process to regain their lost credibility.  They also pointed to the lack of balance and equality in utilizing government resources for election campaigns and stressed the need to ensure equal opportunity for the candidates to utilize government resources....  These bodies should not deal with the realities of Afghan society with haste and recklessness....  Making do with the cooperation of certain fabricated and unpopular political   parties which had a lot of problems registering themselves at the Ministry of Justice is no good.  It is tantamount to fooling the nation and the   international community.  We welcome the precautionary and urgent measures taken by the UN and the JEMB aimed at reviving their tarnished reputation and acting independently so that the obstacles faced by the election campaign could be tackled.  We hope, however, that these measures will prove useful in bolstering public confidence and pave the way for a democratic election free from fraud, forgery, pressure and force."


"The Government Deals With The State Of Affairs Short-sightedly"


Weekly newspaper Payam-e Mojahed editorialized (9/23):  "Had the constitution been approved by the people's representatives without any foreign interference, it would have been a really considerable achievement....  Now that only a few days are remained to hold the second test of democracy, the presidential election, certain foreign circles are hoping for the victory of Karzai.  However, Karzai cannot win the elections as easily as is predicted by his foreign allies....  Even if he wins the elections, he would not win with a majority of votes....  Considering Karzai's policies and actions, it is believed that even if he succeeds in the upcoming election, his success will not prove useful for national unity.  On the contrary, it will widen the gulf between different sections of community and the people will not respect the government as their representative....  The government, political parties, the UN and collation forces had better not implement short-term strategies that will create problems and difficulties in the future for our country. The series of events over the last week demonstrate that Karzai's government and his international friends have committed grave mistakes."


"People Will Not Vote For Anti-Democratic Forces"


Herat News Center wrote (9/23):  "In the present circumstances, we really need the help of the world community and friendly, neighbouring and Muslim countries.  While we suffer destitution, those who announce in their election platform that they will expel foreigners from the country if they come to power, and give lots of other pledges, are only trying to make their slogans sound louder.  Furthermore, those who thwarted our development, looted the nation's assets and who were the servants of outsiders wish to repeat the things they have done in the past.  However, they should understand that our country is not yesterday's Afghanistan.  It is a free country which wishes to move towards civilization alongside other countries.  Our people want to live peacefully and maintain good relations with the countries of the world.  This is because we do not want the world community to abandon us or for powerful people, tyrants and drug smugglers to misuse this opportunity."


"Election Difficulties And Big Challenges"


Amin Saher wrote in pro-government national evening daily Anis (9/22):  "On the one hand...the election process is wrapped in an atmosphere of distrust and feverish political challenges....  Although all these clamors, serious political polemics, and criticism are part and parcel of democracy and democratic openness...they seem to be unexpected, and therefore causes worries and anxieties among the people....  But despite all that, the holding of the presidential election is a big change, positive move, and a turning point in bringing the new political system and democracy into the country....  It is obvious that a good election is a guarantee for a good and prosperous future for our people.  Therefore it is the duty of every politically conscious Afghan to fulfill his duty, making utmost effort to enlighten the people and give them proper consciousness with regard to the value of election and voting.  The people should be told in plain language when they go to the ballot box, they should refer to their conscience and Almighty God, and cast their vote for a candidate who can guarantee a prosperous future for the country and the people, who can direct the country to the path of progress and development in a reasonably short period of time, and thus promote the international prestige of Afghanistan in the world and among the nations of the world."


"It Is Better To Hold The Election Successfully Than To Postpone It"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis editorialized (9/20):  "Some presidential candidates are calling for the postponement of the elections.  They are raising this issue at a time when our people are hoping for a bright future and are impatiently looking forward to participating in the presidential election for the first time....  Now that positive developments are being created...we must try and make Afghanistan a civilized and developed country matching international standards.  It is rather astonishing that some candidates call for the postponement of the elections despite the current critical situation.  They reason that security and logistics problems prevent them from running their election campaign smoothly....  The candidates' demand for the postponement of the elections is indeed adding fuel to the fire lit by the enemies, who are persistently trying to disrupt the election campaign and disappoint the nation.  Therefore, postponing the elections is considered to be the success of the enemy and the success of the 9 October poll is tantamount to a slap in the face of Afghanistan's enemies."


"Post-election Concerns"


Independent daily Erada editorialized (9/20):  "Although the people of our country have been oppressed...over the past few decades, they are counting the days to electing a leader of their own choice and regard the upcoming elections as a good omen for overall prosperity, peace and security throughout the country.  But two major concerns still exist in their minds in connection with casting their votes.  One is the covert and open attacks by terrorist and Al-Qa'ida elements during...and...after the elections....  Secondly, the people face the threats of armed commanders....  But the major concern of our people is that the government has not taken any steps to prevent the use of force by gunlords, or their threats, contrary to their demand for arms to be collected....  Although these presidential elections will be held and a president will be elected even if the people refrain from participating, their withdrawal from the elections due to fear and the threats of gunlords and terrorist elements would be seen as the government's weakness in the field of ensuring the security of people's lives in all regions.  The government's weakness and the fact of people's security being upset are weakening public support for the government and increasing the distance between the two....  And it is clear that in such a situation, peace is jeopardized and creation of a rule-of-law state faces deadlock."


"Expansion Of Security Assistance Forces In The Run-Up To The Elections"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis commented (9/19):  "The expansion of security assistance forces in the run-up to the 18 Mizan [9 October] poll is welcomed by the Afghan peace-loving people.  The deployment of 1,100 troops in Afghanistan to provide security for the upcoming elections shows the commitment of the international community and the USA to the Afghan election campaign.... The state of affairs and the current situation in Afghanistan demonstrate that the country needs further security assistance to ensure security for the upcoming presidential poll.  The security should be ensured so that the people can hold the presidential and parliamentary elections in a secure and peaceful climate.  The international coalition forces, NATO-led peacekeeping forces and the Afghan national army forces had better act in unison to achieve this goal....  The priority need at the moment is to provide security for the elections as the security situation is deteriorating and the Taliban will probably intensify their attacks to disrupt the 9 October poll.  The people cannot go to polls and participate in the election campaigns as expected unless their safety is ensured and tension emanating from possible voter intimidation by warlords are removed."


"Postponing The Elections Is Not In The National Interest"


Independent daily Erada stated (9/19):  "Since the Bonn Conference, the election campaign has faced several obstacles.  The failure in the disarmament process is deemed to have been the main obstacle.  The elections were postponed because security was not maintained, a credible atmosphere was not yet established and the arrangements lagged behind schedule.  Now that the elections, mandated by the national and international institutions, are planned to be held, a number of presidential candidates have put forward certain reasons and proposals, asking for the postponement of the election for yet another month....  The postponement of the elections for yet another month will create many other problems and will not prove useful for the election, which is our people's prime hope and aspiration.  It will also result in the elections be held in the month of Ramadan.  Besides, the weather will get extremely cold in some regions and this will create problems for the voters.  In addition, if the elections are postponed, the presence of too many presidential candidates and their conflicting opinions and platforms will psychologically affect our countrymen....  By postponing the elections, our countrymen who live in remote areas, lack access to radio and television, has no information about the ongoing extensive election campaigns and are not sufficiently familiar with the voting process, will have to wait for yet another month.  The respectable candidates must understand that none of them would be able to travel to all provinces in the current situation and run an election campaign in remote regions.   Lack of security will prevent them from running their campaign all over Afghanistan, and last week's incidents prove this fact.  Finally, it should be noted that our enemies are lying in ambush and postponing the election will give them an opportunity to carry out their acts.  Therefore, it is wise to seek other solutions as this variant is not in our national interest." 


"Afghan Radio Commentary Upbeat About Campaign, Future After Elections"


Pashto-language Kabul Radio Afghanistan, a state-run radio, commented (9/19):  "The current political atmosphere will lead Afghanistan towards a bright and optimistic future.  Providing facilities for the presidential candidates to announce their policies and political, social, economic and cultural programs proves the fact that the people of Afghanistan and the current society have undergone the 23 years [of war] and experienced the formation of a democratic, prosperous and developed society....  There are equal opportunities for the candidates to conduct their elections campaign and explain their policies. No doubt, the presidential candidates' understanding of the current situation will help remove the chaos and improve the situation in the country....  The explanation and disclosure of facts by the candidates will encourage the people of Afghanistan to take a decision to choose their leader.  The people of Afghanistan are entitled to elect their future leader in the light of the law."


"The Abortive Attempt On Karzai's Life"


Pro-government Kabul Times opined (9/19):  "The abortive attempt on Karzai's life in Gardez [Province] the other day was indicative of the Taliban resolve and vigilance to do away with democracy and re-establish their reign of terror.  And the Taliban are not alone in this.  The Al-Qa'idah network along with fundamentalist Muslim scholars...are behind the conspiracy to topple the democratic dispensation in Afghanistan by undermining the elections....  There are two men so vitally needed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Karzai and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf....  The two abortive life attempts made on President Musharraf clearly show that he shares the same fate with his Afghan counterpart. Therefore, they have to join hands in uprooting the conspirators who are gaining more momentum as time goes by....  Meanwhile, the last announcement made by President Karzai that each presidential candidate is entitled to draw from the public treasury some money to expend on his election campaign is commendable.  This should take care, to some extent, of the allegations levelled by the presidential candidates that the incumbent enjoys all facilities and therefore ask him to resign.  Another factor in the election is the proliferation of the number of candidates because this achieves nothing except dividing the votes.  Some of the candidates are not well-known and hence they should withdraw from the race not to waste their energy and funds."


"People Are Concerned About Warfare And Terrorism"


Independent daily Kabul Arman-e Melli commented (9/18):  "Terrorist activities were overwhelmingly intensified in the lead-up to the voter registration process....  These attacks were solely aimed at disrupting the election process.  These terrorist activities are carried at a time when the international community and the Afghan people are preparing for a democratic and fair election in a peaceful atmosphere.  Therefore, every compatriot is worried and concerned about the attacks.  The continuation of such conflicts and terrorist activities in different parts of Afghanistan are deemed to be a serious threat to holding the elections in a democratic and peaceful climate....  Political circles in the country ascribed the occurrence of such bloody incidents to the sluggish pace of the disarmament process....  The presence of the Taliban on the one hand and the extensive existence of weapons and arms in the country on the other are serious threats to the elections and security. To tackle this situation necessitates more extensive assistance by the international forces. As an alternative, the process of training the national army should be accelerated so that the national army fills the vacuum and paves the way for a democratic election and complete peace and security all over the country."


"Racialism, A Shadow On The Elections"


Mazar-e Sharif Gawhar wrote (9/18):  "On the threshold of forming a democratic and central government...we should go to the ballot boxes without religious, regional and linguistic biases and should elect a person to take the huge responsibility of leadership who is capable, talented and deserving....  However, one issue that will affect the election atmosphere is racialism.  Our people are not keeping in mind the personality and knowledge of the candidates...they will mostly consider the tribal and ethnic allegiance....  In Afghanistan tribal and racial issues have created many problems and the adversity and hardship will not come to an end unless the tribal and racial issues are rooted out.  So our people should wake up and learn the lesson from the history of our country that the poison of tribalism has created all the problems.  Afghans are going to decide their destiny today.  They should be very careful not to repeat past history, which will be neither to their benefit nor to that of society."


"Afghan Agency Mulls Candidates' Demand That Election Be Delayed"


Herat News Center commented (9/18):  "A number of presidential candidates have demanded that the elections should be postponed for at least another month....  The postponement of the elections is not to our nation's benefit.  Considering the financial and technical preparations and, since the world community has pledged to help us hold the presidential election, it is better for us to hold the election as scheduled.  By doing this, our people will at least get rid of lawlessness, tyranny and the crimes by armed men and therefore, the ground will be prepared for law and social justice to be ensured."


"Attempt On Karzai's Life"


Dari-language Panjara stated (9/18):  "The head of the Transitional State of Afghanistan, Hamed Karzai, travelled to Paktia Province early this week as part of his election campaign.  While landing at Paktia airport, his helicopter came under a rocket attack.  He fortunately survived...  The attempt on Hamed Karzai's life in the current critical political situation demonstrates that security is volatile more in the south that in the north.  The southern regions are deemed to be havens for terrorists as the south shares long borders with Pakistan.  The governor of Paktia Province told the BBC that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and that three suspects were arrested.  This demonstrates that the security is not ensured in most parts of the country and the elections are facing serious challenges."


"Security Problems Increase As Elections Approach"


Thabat opined (9/18):  "The security problems are...on the rise as the elections near in the country, particularly in the country's capital where bombs are sometimes exploded and rockets are fired....  The security problems are also on the rise in the provinces, particularly in the southern provinces where the enemy attacks government officials every day.  Some areas are even under their control....  On one hand, the enemy creates security problems and threatens to disrupt the forthcoming general elections.  On the other hand, the government officials are also involved in creating security problems.  They create problems wherever there is peace.  For instance, the government made high-level changes at this sensitive stage in the western province of Herat where peace was pervasive.  As a result dozens of people were killed, foreign organizations were burnt down and security was undermined in the province.  Security is considered to be the backbone of a country.  If the situation continued like this, the elections would be postponed again.  It is believed that out of the 10 million people, who have obtained voting cards, only five million or even less than this will take part in the elections."


"Warlords Influence The General Elections In Northern Provinces"


Independent daily Erada editorialized (9/18):  "A large number of people have complained about the presence of the warlords in northern provinces.  People say if the warlords are not dealt with, they can influence the process of the elections.  The people of Pol-e Khomri [capital of northern Baghlan Province] and a number of other areas have decided not vote if the local commanders remained in power....  People fear if they do not vote for the local commanders, they could be killed, tortured and their property looted.  Most people in the northern provinces fear that the presence of a large number of irresponsible armed men can hamper the elections."


"The Success Of The Elections Is The Failure Of Enemies"


Pro-government national evening daily Anis editorialized (9/18):  "With each passing day, the Afghan people are optimistically drawing closer to the presidential election.  The election is threatened by the terrorist activities of the remnants of the Taliban and the rule of warlords in many parts of Afghanistan, particularly in remote regions....  Our people do not want an atmosphere of war and aggression to yet again dominate our country....  That is why terrorists are attempting to establish a climate of terror and fear in society.  Nevertheless, they are misguided as their subversive and violent activities increase people's hatred of them.  It also makes people do more to maintain security and national unity and to rescue the country from the grip of murderers.  The registration of 10m eligible voters for the forthcoming presidential vote is our nation's first experience of establishing a national government through democratic elections.  It is also tantamount to a slap in the face of these enemies and shows that our people are committed to establishing a new political system in Afghanistan....  Our people have fought to achieve this goal for the last two-and-a-half decades and have made sacrifices.   They have reached this stage after defeating their sworn enemies.   As a result, we can say that the Afghan people's success in the elections is tantamount to their enemies' defeat."


"The 'Difference' In Our Current Situation And The Candidates' Stance"


Ensaf editorialized (9/16):  "Today, Afghanistan is experiencing two rare phenomena which are unprecedented in the several thousand year history of our country. The election, during which a political leader is chosen by the will of the nation, and the presence of the US-led foreign troops, which have been welcomed by the nation.  The point is that the foreign forces are increasing the number of their military HQ in Afghanistan.  This process, frankly speaking, is not in the interests of our independence in the long term.  On the other hand, the nation intends to select a person as the head of state that can take an oath promising to uphold the country's independence....  Many experts think that the main issue of Afghanistan at present is to deal with the extent of foreign political and military officials' intervention in the Afghan affairs, about which the majority of the presidential candidates have not yet put forward any clear plans and have not even brought up the issue....  Foreign troops' fighting against terrorism and establishing security is a significant topic....  The foreign forces are to ensure security and hunt down terrorist groups which are preventing every kind of political and economic development in Afghanistan.  However... it must be transparent that these troops should support the political independence and will of the people of Afghanistan."


"Will the Ballot Replace Bullet in Afghanistan?"


Sahaar, owned by an Afghan non-governmental organization, wrote (9/15):  "Officials are extremely upbeat about the election process in Afghanistan...  Apparently, the pace of election process is really fast as the state-controlled media is projecting it with pomp and show....  If the content of the state-owned media and radio channels are objectively analyzed, it seems that polling is a drama aimed to divert attention from hunger and starvation faced by the Afghan nation....  Claims made by officials and vested elements active in the process that all Afghan people are actively participating in the process is really a mockery of the misery of the Afghan masses.  The Afghan people hope the election process will conclude peacefully and will result in the formation of a government, which can realize their miseries and take practical measures to resolve the social problems.  They also hope that the international community will not be manipulated by media propaganda, and it will stress on the elected government to redress genuine grievances of the masses."


"Strong Water Current Can Flow Upstream, But How Far?"


Engineer Gholam Yahya Fawade commented in independent weekly newspaper Cheragh (9/15):  "There are lots of talks and discussions regarding the upcoming election in our country these days, but what is clearly obvious are behind the scene agreements conducted by Mr. Karzai to attract and pull his allies to his support....  The individuals and personalities circling the orbit of power...have made secret political deals to support Karzai against receipt of benefits and privileges....  The offers of privileges can clearly be seen from these behind the scene political collaborations and deal-makings.  Mr. Karzai, to defeat his opponents and rivals in election, is thirsty for the support of a number of Jihadic personalities and leaders.  It has been revealed that Karzai has offered government posts and ministry posts against these political supports, and even for the sons and daughters of his supporters, such posts and positions have been promised....  We thus see that the market for political give and take is very hot these days....  In this election adventure, the strong water currents are flowing upstream so far, and Mr. Karzai, in order to defeat his opponents, spends money like sand (an unlimited amount) and also has tied the hands and feet of a number of individuals to the promised posts and positions. But these painful election adventures will damage the reputation of the Afghanistan election, and will also smear and damage the reputation of Mr. Karzai, who is still trusted by great number of people."


"One Cannot Become A National Leader By Relying On A Single Ethnic Group"


Independent daily Erada opined (9/14):  "These campaigns can be legitimate and legal since they are taking place within the limits of freedom and democracy.  However, a number of candidates are overstepping the limits and are looking for various methods and ways to attract and collect the necessary ethnic support and elements, and to apply a double standard, and create a state of uncertainty, hatred and antipathy....  If a candidate encourages a particular ethnic group to support him, this action is not only not legitimate, but it will also damage the candidate's reputation as a national leader.  For this action will arouse the mistrust of the country's other ethnic groups towards the candidate.  Any candidate who is willing to become a president by stirring up linguistic, ethnic, racial and regional issues in the current situation and in this vulnerable country will shatter peace, unity, solidarity and mutual understanding in their embryo before coming to power.  It seems that there are a number of people among the candidates who want to ignore national unity and break its bent body during the election campaigns in order to gain power. A number of candidates think that they can guarantee their success [in the election] if they forge relations with particular groups and people.  It must be said that one should not expect victory by attracting certain groups of people, or even if they succeed in doing so, it will not be an absolute or long-lasting victory."


"People's Presence On The Stage Is Confirmed"


Independent weekly Cheragh editorialized (9/14):  "We have heard the sound of an election for the future leadership echoing, and people's dimmed hopes for a calm future have been reviving in their hearts....  Now, the country is moving towards security and justice and confirming people's presence on the social and political stage, returning them their lost national unity, brotherhood, and peace.  The Taliban...tried to destroy our national Islamic identity using displaced foreigners, and to support the failed policy of Pakistani thieves with the price of our independence.  However, fortunately, they fell victim to their own plot.  Now, with the cooperation and support of the international community, Afghan people will celebrate their legal presidency, and experiencing this first election they will demonstrate the level of their political development and maturity....  Now...presidential candidates and the future leadership...not only respect people's opinions and feelings; they think that they need people's support and their success depends on people's independent decisions and choices....  It is interesting that the heroes of yesterday's jihad and resistance are the pioneers of election today, and instead of proving themselves through the power of the gun they bow to people's power and mandate and welcome their votes.  We hope that no faction or side will be able to stain the sound nature of the election with short-sighted measures, and destroy the hope of our people for their first experience of our political culture, and discredit us before the international community."


INDIA:  "The Dawn Of Democracy" 


Independent Urdu-language Milap editorialized (10/8):  "Afghanistan is entering a new era of democracy with the elections being held to elect a national leader for the country. The victory of the interim President Hamid Karzai is almost certain and the U.S., too, would like him to win. However, regardless of the result it is more important that the Afghanistan is experiencing the first phase of people's participation in the political administration of the country. Violence is not ruled out during the elections, especially by those opposed to the dawn of democracy.  However, the determination of the Afghan people to turn over a new leaf will ultimately foil all divisive efforts. If democracy succeeds in Afghanistan, it will not only benefit  the country itself enormously, but will also herald a new era of meaningful and constructive cooperation in the area. The growth and development, so badly needed for the war ravaged Afghanistan, is possible only when there is peace and real participation of people in managing the political, social and economic affairs of their country."


"U.S. Just Wants Karzai To Win"


Ashish Kumar Sen wrote in centrist The Tribune (10/7):  "Since the US-led invasion in 2001 and the resultant fall of the Taliban government in Kabul, the American presence has been ubiquitous in Afghanistan.  Three years later, the administration of President Hamid Karzai is grudgingly struggling to disengage itself from its American patrons amid accusations of foreign interference.  A recent Times of London report noted that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, has been nicknamed "The Viceroy" because of the influence that he wields over Karzai's government....  There is an undercurrent of concern in Washington that overt American interference in the presidential election could undermine Karzai's position should he win.  The Pashtun incumbent is expected to retain his office....  The US goals for a stable and independent Afghanistan could be undermined if there are signs that the United States has played a heavy hand in Afghan's domestic political decision-making process, cautioned....  Human rights groups predict major political problems are likely to manifest themselves soon after the presidential elections."


PAKISTAN:  "Afghanistan Needs Karzai"


Nasim Zehra wrote in the centrist national English-language News (10/8):  "Karzai has yet to emerge as a nation-wide popular leader in a nation which still is busy trying to deal with the ‘basics’ of existence, including physical security, clean water and two meals a day.  Yet, he has become a symbol of Afghanistan’s transition from crisis and chaos towards gradual peace and progress.  Indeed very gradual.  It is a requirement of this gradual process that Karzai goes through the presidential elections to legitimize himself as an elected Afghan leader and not one propped up entirely by the Americans.  His key task remains reining in the warlords and building bridges with the Taliban remnants.  Hence increased legitimacy as an Afghan leader is crucial for Karzai, if he must lead the construction of the Afghan State and the reconstruction of Afghan politics.  He will earn a degree of legitimacy from the participatory nature of the election process, however flawed it maybe.  Karzai needs both outsides support and internal go-ahead to be a successful transition man for Afghanistan.  Also to continue as president being elected is not sufficient.  Karzai also needs to be lucky against the constant security threats he faces."


"Afghan Elections And Pakistan"


The Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times stated (10/7):  "Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Afghan warlords and drug barons are poised to use violence to prevent people from voting.  Some of this has already been in evidence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It is because of the internal situation that many international observers had recommended another postponement of the presidential polls, already put off earlier once....  The Afghan presidential election, designed on the French model, will take place in two rounds.  If no candidate wins the first round with more than 50 percent of the votes, a second round will be held two weeks later.  This means that all communities would be able to assert their respective strength in the primary round of the election, and then seek concessions from the two candidates that remain in the run-off.  This indicates that no candidate could win without attracting some votes from other ethnic groups.  Since the Pushtun community is divided and remains under threat from the Taliban, it is President Karzai who would face difficulties and would need most to make concessions to other more united communities to retain his post.  Pakistan has three million Afghan refugees, mostly Pushtun; Iran has 1.5 million, mostly Hazaras.  The polls will be just as dicey outside Afghanistan as inside."


"Somewhere Over The Rainbow"


Miranda Husain asserted in the Lahore-based liberal Daily Times (10/6):  "The central goal of the Taliban was to intimidate and render submissive a whole people. And the oppression of women was one way for them to do this....  With the Taliban gone and the people of Afghanistan preparing for their country’s first ever presidential elections, it seems that the women of that country are finally set to take hold of the bright future that is rightfully theirs....  The victory of the 2001 U.S.-led invasion against Afghanistan...had claimed to liberate the women of that country and bring them into mainstream life.  During the U.S.-led war against the Taliban, the oppression of Afghan women became synonymous with the nature of that rule. It was well documented....  Such an approach is extremely misguided, especially with regard to Afghanistan.  For the Taliban regime sought to oppress not just women, but the entire population....  Therefore, when the leaders of the free world talked about their sincerity in ‘lifting the veil of oppression’ from the shoulders of Afghan women, they should have endeavoured to protect the human rights of all members of this war-torn society. They should have not just gone after Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives. They should have also tried to reign in the warlords from the very beginning instead of allowing them the freedom to run their own fiefdoms and make up their own rules....  The warlords...have fragmented an entire state and oppressed its society....  Yet the U.S. did not consider the warlords as important a threat to the Afghan people as the Taliban....  And the Bush administration never once showed itself interested in liberating the entire society from oppressive rule. They were solely interested in the liberation of Afghan women! This was a fundamental mistake since the warlords are currently in control of much of the country....  The lesson the U.S. must learn from the Afghan experience is that if and when it next chooses to go nation-building, it must first try to undertake the task of state-building. It must endeavour to protect the human rights and dignity of an entire people, not just a sector of society. If it does not, it will fail in its mission....  The liberation of one group firmly depends on the liberation of all."


"Govt. Will Be Stronger After Polls: Karzai"


Center-left, national English-language Dawn editorialized (10/4):  "Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed confidence on Sunday that his administration would emerge from a historic presidential election next weekend with increased legitimacy.  Mr. Karzai is widely tipped to win the vote on Saturday.  Parliamentary elections are due to follow, although no date has yet been set."


"Obstacles To Afghan Poll"


Center-left, independent, English-language Dawn editorialized (9/20):  "Reports coming from Afghanistan say that the security arrangements made by Kabul and the international community for the poll are woefully inadequate.  Some 18,000 U.S. troops based in Afghanistan are busy in their hunt for the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and their patrols are restricted largely to the areas bordering the Durand Line.  The 8,200-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has barely managed to keep the peace in Kabul and Kunduz, while the warlords and Taliban insurgents have a free run of the field.  Over 1,000 people, including 12 election workers, have so far been target-killed by opponents of the electoral process.  Thus, fear among Afghanistan's 11.5 million voters that more violence is in the offing as the election day nears cannot be dismissed.  This is a tragic situation.  The October 9 presidential election is an important phase in Afghanistan's transition to democracy, which is the cherished goal of Afghans after years of unstable monarchical or authoritarian rule and the horrendous Taliban interlude."


IRAN:  "Question Mark Lingers Over Credibility of Afghan Elections"


State-run radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated (10/5):  "During their election campaigns, the majority of presidential candidates of Afghanistan criticized the performances of the transitional government over the past two and half years and Hamed Karzai's abuse of government facilities during his election campaign.  According to the candidates, equal campaigning opportunities have not been provided to all candidates in Afghanistan.  And Hamed Karzai has imposed an unfair contest on other candidates by taking advantage of government resources and enjoying the support of the USA and other Western countries....  Underscoring the achievements and performance of the transitional government during his election campaign, Hamed Karzai also stressed that his future government will not be a coalition government.  Anyway, the most important thing about the presidential elections in Afghanistan is the people's absolute support for the future elected government of the country.  However, these doubts about the election campaign in Afghanistan will certainly put a big question mark over the credibility of the elections and the legitimacy of the future president."


"Insecurity To Affect Credibility, Turnout In Afghan Elections"


State-run radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran commented (10/4):  "The UN representative office in Afghanistan and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission have accused Hamed Karzai, the head of the transitional government of Afghanistan, of abusing government facilities during his election campaigns....  Moreover, because of the US and other Western countries' apparent and clear support for Karzai in the presidential election of Afghanistan, Karzai's rivals and the country's political observers have described the election contests as unfair.  The Afghan people, who are experiencing elections for the first time to choose their president, are very excited and are expecting the elections to be healthy and democratic.  However, there are some issues which may impede the Afghan citizens from voting freely.  A number of commanders and governors have intimidated people in their regions into voting for a particular candidate....  Despite an increase in the number of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, there are still serious concerns about the security situation in that country.  Ever-growing suicide attacks in some areas of Afghanistan, particularly the Taliban attacks in eastern and southern areas of the country over the past few days, have given rise to these concerns.  The continuation of these problems could have harmful effects on the Afghan citizens' turnout in the elections and it may also damage the credibility of the elections."


"Elections And The Absence Of Security And Democracy In Afghanistan"


State-run radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran commented (9/26):  "Although there are less than two weeks until the presidential elections in Afghanistan, the security situation and use of anti-democratic methods in the election campaign have caused the soundness of the election to be questioned.  So the main problem of the elections in Afghanistan has been the lack of security.  Increased tension and incidents in Afghanistan have concerned the people and the election employees in Afghanistan....  The situation in Afghanistan shows that there have been no conditions for voters to make their choice freely.  In addition to that, direct and indirect support by some countries, especially the United States, for a certain candidate and the abuse of government and public facilities in the election campaign, which has been criticized by all candidates, further puts into question the fairness of the elections."


"Afghan Elections Unfair"


State-run television Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran commented (9/24):  "Some countries, including America, have been trying to influence the course of Afghan internal developments.  This has made the Afghan people less enthusiastic....  Nevertheless, there is keen competition among the 17 candidates in the first Afghan elections....  On the other hand, there is a shortage of resources and necessary facilities for holding fair elections, especially in remote areas....  Afghan presidential elections face a number of challenges....  The most important issue is security and the threat posed by the Taleban, Al-Qa'idah and Hekmatyar's Hizbi Islami....  People are not confident that fair elections can be held....  In my view, another issue is the cultural aspect of the situation.  The fact of the matter is that Afghanistan has a high rate of illiteracy.  The people have a relatively low level of political knowledge.  Therefore, they do not understand the meaning of elections in the way that peoples of other countries do....  There are local powers which can influence the elections.  In some areas, the people have been threatened and told to vote for a certain candidate."


"Unrest, Insecurity Increasing Ahead Of Elections In Afghanistan"


State-run radio Mashhad Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran opined (9/23):  "At least 25 people have been killed or injured in numerous clashes between the Afghan government, US forces and unidentified armed people in Afghanistan....  It is worth mentioning that unrest and clashes are increasing while we are just 17 days away from the presidential poll and insecurity is still an issue despite the presence of foreign forces."


"Afghanistan In Flux"


Tehran Times, a conservative daily published by the Islamic Propagation Organization, wrote (Internet Version, 9/19):  "Expressing concern over the disorder in Afghanistan, Annan...called on Afghan groups and peacekeeping forces to work together to help establish security and stability in the country for the upcoming presidential elections....  However, in a coordinated propaganda move, Western media outlets recently announced that many Afghans believe that Karzai is the only presidential candidate who can effect fundamental change in Afghanistan.  While making no mention of the other candidates, the media outlets claimed that the interim president is one of the most popular politicians in Afghanistan, calling him the favorite to win the upcoming presidential election.  In light of all these moves, some observers believe that Western countries are trying to influence the Afghan election."


"Afghan Pundit Criticizes US Envoy For 'Unexpected' Comments On Presidential Polls"


State-run radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported (9/19):  "The presidential elections, which are the first ever [direct] election in Afghanistan, are of great importance.  The Afghan authorities and experts have been insisting on the need for stability and peace to hold fair elections in the country.  In recent days...Afghan presidential candidates have expressed their concerns about external interference and said this interference would cause serious harm to the people of Afghanistan.  The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, criticized all 17 presidential candidates apart from Hamed Karzai, the Afghan president....  One expert on Afghan affairs and politics...said that Khalilzad has no authority to comment on the Afghan presidential election because he is not an Afghan citizen and cannot comment on the Afghan election.  And if he wanted to comment on the [Afghan] election on the behalf of the United States it would constitute interference in the Afghan elections."




BRITAIN:  "Democracy's Chance In Afghanistan"


An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read (10/9):  "The final lesson for Iraq is that legitimacy matters.  In Afghanistan, care has been taken to create a government that Afghans may, with luck, consider their own.  A UN-sponsored conference drew up the basic plan within weeks of the end of hostilities....  In Iraq, America's blueprint for a democratic transition has been chopped and changed with bewildering frequency.  And now that a clear plan has at last been drawn up, leading to an election in January, security has deteriorated so much that holding it may prove impossible.  Much more should have been--and still needs to be--learned, from Afghanistan's failures as well as its successes."


"An Election At Gunpoint In Afghanistan"


International affairs editor Quentin Peel commented in the independent Financial Times (10/7):  "The election will be neither free nor fair.  The country is in far too chaotic a state.  Nobody really knows how many people will dare turn up at the polling stations.  They may fear intimidation by gunmen backing the many and various candidates (there are 18 on the ballot paper) or being attacked by supporters of the former Taliban regime, who oppose the whole exercise....  It is too late now to go back.  So the real question is whether, in such circumstances, the presidential poll will enjoy enough popular legitimacy to help stabilise the country and undermine the rule of the gun."


"Afghan Democracy:  Warlords, Opium And Ethnic Rivalry Make For A Flawed Poll"


An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (10/6):  "Afghanistan today is ill-prepared for the presidential election on Saturday, partly because of the fitful nature of foreign support since the US-backed overthrow of the extremist Taliban regime in 2001....  Afghanistan--its capital guarded by NATO troops, its southern mountains a battlefield between US forces and suspected al-Qaeda militants and its economy sustained by opium exports--has not quite sunk back into the status of a 'failed state', but it is dangerously close.  Saturday's election may succeed after a fashion, but the process will be too flawed and the rule of law too remote for this event to be a source of pride."


FRANCE:  "Behind Iraq..."


Bruno Frappat wrote in Catholic La Croix (10/8):  “Behind Iraq, there is Afghanistan. Before Iraq, there was Afghanistan....  The response after 9/11 against Afghanistan’s regime was in the eyes of the international community a gesture of legitimate defense....  Since then, international forces are trying to secure the country....  The fact that elections have been able to be organized in Afghanistan, a country that has never seen an election since the beginning of time, is in itself a major achievement. We must nevertheless keep from the conclusion that Afghanistan’s mountainous regions have been secured.  Afghanistan remains a land where warlords reign....  Many signs still indicate that all conditions have not yet been met for a peaceful democratic transition.  In spite of this, Saturday’s election marks a historic step, not so much for Afghanistan’s ‘protectors’ but for the people of Afghanistan.  If they manage to democratically elect a president, the whole world will be relieved.”


"Afghanistan's Elections Seen As A Fertile Ground For Fraud"


Rachel Morarjee wrote for Hong Kong AFP (10/4):  "Afghanistan's historic presidential elections on Saturday will fall far short of internationally accepted standards, analysts say.  Violence and intimidation by warlords and supporters of the ousted Taliban regime combine with a lack of education among voters and a shortage of independent monitors to create fertile ground for fraud.  That in turn increases the risk that the winner will not be able to claim an undisputed victory, possibly sparking further violence in this turbulent country riven by 25 years of conflict.  Western countries, which led the 2001 invasion that set the country up for the election, have been criticised for inadequate security provisions and for providing pitiful numbers of election monitors....  In Washington and other western capitals the fact that more than 10.5 million Afghans have registered to vote has been hailed as evidence of the country's overwhelming enthusiasm for democracy.  But it is also likely to reflect massive cheating."


GERMANY:  "Afghanistan Has A Future"


Sabine Muscat observed in business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (10/8):  "The new Afghan government will need more international help for a long time.  But the Afghan government itself can do more, presenting itself to the people as a real alternative to local rulers....  The construction of a modern infrastructure, aiming at integrating the country into the old trade routes, is one option to show that it can change essential things--which provinces cannot--and for which paying taxes is worthwhile.   Instead of waiting for private international investments on a large scale, the government should encourage Afghan business initiatives.  However, the countries contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan will have to keep pouring billions into this country.  The current commitment is not sufficient." 


"Winner Will Probably Be Karzai"


Ahmad Taheri opined in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/3):  "Many people believed that Afghans would not register in fear of Taliban and al Qaida.  There had been many attacks on election offices and helpers in recent weeks and months, but terrorist did not achieve their goal....  Despite the many candidates, the winner will probably be Hamid Karzai.  Many Afghans, those living in towns in particular, see the 'friend of Americans' as a guarantee for more international aid and putting warlords in their place.  Many people thank Karzai's government simply for the fact that the situation did not get worse after the fall of the Taliban.  Also many women might vote for him, as he is seen as a liberator after the painful time under the Taliban."


"No More Delays In Helping Afghanistan"


Rolf Clement commented on national radio station Deutschlandfunk of Cologne (10/1):  "Whether the Afghan President who will be elected next week will accomplish the desired stability of the country remains to be seen.  But it is clear that this must be flanked by concrete measures.  The concept of the German government is a mixture of military and civilian means to demilitarize militias and give farmers opportunities beyond poppy growing.  But the concept still lacks sufficient substance.  Although the German army in Afghanistan is adequately armed, economic and development aid is falling short - the responsible Ministry is investing too little."


ITALY:  "Islam, A Chance For Democracy"


Angelo Panebianco observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (10/8):  “Afghanistan will hold elections tomorrow....  According to experts, there is a slim chance that democracy will be strengthened....  But it’s a beginning. If this first phase turns out to be a parody of democracy, we will have to see whether representative institutions will last long enough to instill in the minds of Afghans that political power should be legitimized through elections rather than through weapons and armed militia. If this idea spreads, then there will be a strengthening of representative institutions. While elections will take place in Afghanistan, we still don’t know whether Iraq will hold its scheduled elections for 2005. If these elections are postponed, then it will be a victory for the be-headers, for the ‘resistance'....  It’s ironic that so many westerners who want to ward off the idea of ‘the clash between civilizations’ are disinterested in consolidating representative institutions in the Muslim world. They don’t realize that it is only by democratizing that world that we will be able to avoid a clash between civilizations....  This also goes for the EU’s go-ahead to negotiations for Turkey’s membership....  Turkey is the promise, the best we have available to us, of a co-existence that will ward off the specter of a clash of civilizations. The difficulties are many, but the opportunity must not be wasted.”


"Afghanistan To Elections Amidst Bombs"


Daniele Mastrogiacomo commented in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/7):  “Galvanized by an historical appointment, Afghanistan prepares for presidential elections.  And it’s doing so in a climate of growing tension, as it is decimated by continuous attacks....  The elections constitute a test for George W. Bush’s doctrine on preventive war to free the world from terrorism and export western democracy.”


"Cut-off And Counted Heads"


Pierluigi Battista reports in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (10/7):  “While the obscene acts of the be-headers continue, it is comforting to know that in two days Afghanistan will be counting heads.  No one has unrealistic hopes for lasting peace....  Electoral procedures still look patchy and precarious.  But there is something very moving about this Afghan adventure for democracy, in the ten million men and women lined up to register....  And while it is perfectly legitimate to underscore the unrealistic and doctrinaire aspect of ‘exporting’ democracy at gunpoint, and to question the compatibility between Islam and democracy...the West should not disdain Masuda Jalal’s candidacy for the presidency.”


"Afghanistan, The Future Resides In The Elections"


Cesare De Carlo maintained in conservative, top-circulation syndicate Il Resto del Carlino/La Nazione/Il Giorno (10/6):  “On October 9, Afghanistan will hold its first democratic elections....  Let’s think about the Afghanistan that the Americans invaded three years ago....  The Taliban led the country back to Medieval Islam, by oppressing and purging every aspect of social, political and economic life. Women were subjected to physical and psychological abuse....  Today’s Afghanistan is different....  The population has resumed living, and talking without the fear of being beaten, imprisoned or killed. Women have regained dignity....  These are the positive aspects. There are also negative aspects....  Many provinces are still in the hands of warlords. Opium cultivation has increased and Afghanistan is on the list of drug-trafficking countries. Threats, blackmail, and corruption have accompanied the pre-electoral phase. Okay. But Afghans should not see Saturday’s vote as a fraud to benefit the president who was chosen by the victors [U.S.] This is a first. It’s an attempt to transplant democratic values....  At the end of WWII, America did this in Italy, Germany and Japan successfully. Now it will attempt to do so in Afghanistan and next year in Iraq. Will it work? It will be difficult, but not impossible.”


"From The Burqa To Elections"


Elite, classical liberal Il Foglio stated (10/6):  “The Afghan elections are five days away and Kabul is in a logistical nightmare. Afghanistan has the tremendous responsibility of making these presidential elections a success given the event’s uniqueness, which is a gift of globalization and of the war on terrorism, and an exercise in nation-building for the entire planet. Getting here was not easy and innumerable compromises were needed to put the situation back on track every time things looked like they were going to fail....  Democracy in Afghanistan is the result of fatigue rather than the fruit of an inexorable historic process, but for now the Afghans are content.”


"Export Democracy Is Tested In Afghanistan"


Elite, center-left daily Il Riformista (10/5) noted: “Afghanistan in a small country with 24 million people.  But these days it’s the center of the world.  In a certain way it is even more so than Iraq because the elections that will take place there in a few days could signal the start of its re-birth or the admission that the war may have defeated the Taliban, but didn’t mark the turning point that everyone was expecting....  In the meantime, the electoral machine runs the risk of becoming a farce: if the country’s eleven warlords continue to dictate the law and to order executions; if the foundations of a penal system fail to exist in the judicial process...if the penal institution doesn’t assure that crimes are punished; if all these conditions are not met, it will not be possible for elections to give a semblance of democracy to the country.”


"Alpine Troops Defend Afghan Elections"


Fausto Biloslavo reported in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (10/5): “500 Italian soldiers from the Cobra task force have been sent in to Afghanistan to assure that the country’s first election after a quarter of a century doesn’t fail amidst chaos and violence.… The mission is also humanitarian and includes the distribution of winter clothing donated by the Alpine National Association. … The children are jubilant at the sight of Italian vehicles. … The adults, however, don’t even so much as look at them.  They appear completely indifferent, although not hostile.”


"In Afghanistan West Risks More Than In Iraq"


Livio Caputo commented in right-of-center daily Il Giornale (9/18):  "Not many people are talking about them yet, but on 9 October elections will be held in Afghanistan that are no less important than those in Iraq in January next year....  Unfortunately, only three weeks short of the vote, the law and order situation is not all that dissimilar to that in Iraq....  In view of the fact that Afghanistan has never known a real democracy, the preparations have been very laborious, and have gone relatively well....  But, as the crucial moment gradually approaches, it has become more dangerous to take part: it appears that guerrilla fighters linked to the old regime, and people belonging to the universe of Al-Qa'ida, have killed almost 100 people in the last month just because they had collected their electoral certificates....  The failure of the electoral process would turn the clock back once again, placing a new question mark also over the success of the first major anti-terrorism operation launched after 11 September.  Unfortunately, at this juncture, there is little more which the West can do for the success of the mission, except for keeping its fingers crossed and hoping for some good luck."


RUSSIA:  "Younger Masoud Survives" 


Arkady Dubnov maintained in reformist Vremya Novostei (10/7):  "Acts of terror cannot disrupt the presidential election in Afghanistan....  Ahmad Shah Masoud, Afghanistan's ambassador to Moscow and a younger brother of the legendary field commander Ahmad Shah Masoud, survived a bomb attack in Faizabad, the capital of Badahshan Province, yesterday.  Despite the act of terror, it is obvious that the Taliban's threats to thwart the presidential election in Afghanistan no longer look realistic."


"Afghan Opposition Decides On Downsizing"


Sergei Strokan contended in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (10/6):  "Under the international peace plan, the first direct presidential elections after the overthrow of the Taliban should demonstrate 'the triumph of the young Afghan democracy' and prove that the period of chaos, wars and feuds has been left behind to give way to the period of consolidation. But as elections draw nearer, fresh evidence appears to show that things are in reality far removed from that goal. On the eve of the elections, the Taliban declared that they have already regained control over some regions in the country and this is only the beginning. From 2001, President Karzai survived two assassination attempts and an ever larger international contingent (now 27,000-strong) is required to maintain law and order in Afghanistan." 


AUSTRIA:  "Elections Under Life-threatening Circumstances"


Foreign editor Livia Klingil contended in mass-circulation Der Standard (10/8):  “The free will of the voter does not exist in a country whose only relevant economic sector is the cultivation of opium poppy (Afghanistan is number one in drug exports), where warlords with their heavily armed military dominate the political scene and the clans are worth far more than the individual. Since these are the first presidential elections ever, the majority of Afghans also lack a basic understanding of the meaning and purpose behind the voting process. And elections that would entail a representation of the people are not being held because the security situation is too bad for that. How then is it possible that the security situation is good enough for presidential elections? Much more important than to hurry elections would have been a real pacification of the country. The Afghans would have profited from it as would European kids who are exposed to the drug threat, and it would have helped the fight against terrorism. Apart from the objectively very difficult circumstances in Afghanistan, pacification also failed because the capacities of the U.S were concentrated in Iraq, which is also why Usama bin Laden is still at large.”


HUNGARY:  “Earlier They Beat, Now They Rape”


Upon the release of the film  ‘Osama’ in Hungary, an associate of  the Revolutionary Alliance of Women for Afghanistan (RAWA), Marian Rawi wrote in liberal daily Nepszabadsag (9/24):  “The situation in Afghanistan today is no different from that of the former Taliban regime.  The rule of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance is likewise not very different from the rule of the previous regime.  The situation in larger towns is a bit better, mainly due to the presence of international troops, but a women who decides to work or study still takes a risk....  The warlords introduce new rules and regulations as they please and these new rules are often very similar to those of the Taliban.  With the coming elections,  the situation of the Afghan women is expected to become worse.  Most of the warlords and the Northern Alliance, as well as the Taliban  -- who fight against the warlords and the Northern Alliance, want to discourage the Afghani women from voting.”


SPAIN:  "Eve In Kabul"


Left-of-center daily El País wrote (9/18): "...On October 9, the US, NATO and the community of countries contributing troops to the multinational force in Afghanistan...are putting their prestige on the line in supervising the presidential elections....  Judging by the course of events, it's not imprudent to have doubts about the lack of security and the government's inability to control the situation....  Those governments that think their mission ends after supervising the elections are wrong.  Afghanistan will need an international military presence for a long time."


SWEDEN:  "Countdown In Afghanistan"


Foreign editor Per Ahlin editorialized in independent, liberal morning daily Dagens Nyheter (10/4):  “The (Afghan) elections will to all appearances take place.  However, they will be a daring undertaking in which the legitimacy of the government might be questioned, and local warlords may exert influence on the election results....  The foremost threat against the country is the poor security situation...and great responsibility rests on the international community, which has promised not to leave the country once again in the lurch....  NATO forces quite simply must increase.  Resources are sufficient in the member countries, but the political will is lacking.  It is once again clear that it is easier to make states intervene in the military phase (of a conflict) than to make them engage in the important work to win the peace....  The obvious point in this regard is that one cannot complain over American unilateralist policy and American arrogance without being a credible actor oneself.”




SAUDI ARABIA:  "A Chance For Afghans To Test The Magic Key"


Amir Taheri opined in the English-language pro-government Arab News (10/8):  "During the past year or so a new word has entered the popular vocabulary in Afghanistan. It is 'intikhabat' (elections) and one of the select groups of words shared by Afghanistan’s two major languages, Persian and Pashto. Many Afghans admit that they do not know quite what it means, but almost all believe that 'intikhabat' is a magic key to a better future....  The remnants of the Taleban and Al-Qaeda are not the only ones who see elections as the death of their dreams for a return to power in Afghanistan. Tomorrow’s election could close a chapter of Afghan history in which different brands of despotism competed for power....  Since its liberation from the Taleban, Afghanistan has embarked upon a slow but steady recovery from almost three decades of foreign occupation, civil war and fanatical rule....  There is no doubt that terrorists of all denominations will do all they can to disrupt tomorrow’s election, especially in the southeast of the country where central government forces have only a tentative presence....  According to most polls, the current interim President Hamid Karzai is posed to win tomorrow.  Karzai has proved himself to be a talented politician....  To be sure, a single election will not solve all of Afghanistan’s problems. The country still faces a serious terrorist threat....  Promises of foreign aid remain largely unfulfilled....  Having said all that it is important to remember where Afghanistan was two years ago and where it is today. Afghanistan’s first ever election should be a source of inspiration for all those who believe that a judicious mix of military force, economic aid, and political will can produce miracles in nation-building."


UAE:  "Afghanistan's Tomorrow"


The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times declared (10/8):  "Tomorrow--October 9--will be remembered as a turning point in the history of Afghanistan. The country goes to its first-ever poll tomorrow. Notwithstanding the security concerns and the apprehensions over the fairness and independence of the election, the very fact that it is being held augurs well for the country.  Afghanistan's first democratic exercise may not be perfect and flawless....  But a far-from-perfect election is decidedly better than not having it at all. It is not a small beginning for a country that has never seen a ballot before and whose claim to fame until now has been its bloody upheavals, illiteracy and terrible poverty.  But things are changing in Afghanistan. Now, its future is in the hands of its people who can choose the kind of representatives and leaders they want.  The leadership thrown up by tomorrow's polls will have no time to lose. The new government will have to take immediate and bold steps on several fronts. Education should top the agenda of new Afghanistan because this is one area where the Afghans desperately and immediately need help....  Other areas crying for attention include health, employment, economic development and building of basic infrastructure in the country. This landmark election will be a challenge to others in the region, too. The half-baked democracies and authoritarian regimes around Afghanistan cannot remain unaffected by the change in their neighbourhood."




AUSTRALIA:  "Afghans, Too, Have Date With Destiny"


Liberal Sydney Morning Herald editorialized (10/1):  "Afghanistan, like Australia, goes to the polls on October 9....  It seems curious the Afghans' uncertain adventure in democracy has rated only perfunctory mention during the Australian election campaign....  There are lessons from Afghanistan that Australians should ponder. One is that the holding of elections, while a necessary condition of democracy, is not a sufficient one.  Persuading people to mark a slip of paper is one thing; it is quite another to change a political culture marked by ingrained tribal, ethnic and regional rivalries. True, after dreadful decades of foreign military occupation, repressive rule and civil war, it is remarkable that Afghanistan is holding an election at all....  But setting an election date is the easy part....  The first real test will be how many voters can turn out on the day and how badly the process is marred by intimidation, corruption and Taliban-driven violence.  But even if the election goes relatively well...there are bigger questions. Will the result be clear-cut enough to confer real legitimacy on the President, Hamid Karzai...or will it merely reinforce this desperately poor, war-torn country's traditional divisions? And crucially, will the US and the West now be prepared to...devote adequate military and economic resources to giving Afghanistan a real chance to succeed?  At present, the Karzai Government's writ barely runs outside Kabul. The Taliban and its sympathisers still enjoy safe havens in Pakistan from which to harass understrength NATO and US contingents. The warlords continue to rule their fiefdoms and prosper, enriched by illicit but burgeoning opium poppy production....  To date all the Americans have proved in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, is that they are much better at overthrowing regimes than at cleaning up the mess afterwards."


JAPAN:  "Smooth Election Is Key To Demonstrating Successful Reconstruction"


Liberal Mainichi reported from Islamabad (9/28):  "The U.S. has decided to send more than 1,000 Marines to Afghanistan to maintain security in the run-up to the Oct. 9 presidential election.  This is because smooth implementation of the election and the establishment of a full-fledged government will signal the success of Afghan reconstruction and hence boost President Bush's reelection bid...  As low voter turnout would raise questions about the legitimacy of the election and the new president, the U.S., the Karzai government and the U.N. are all anxious to raise voter turnout.  But, with the U.S. military unlikely to sweep out Taliban remnants bent on hampering the election, it is uncertain whether the election will bring stability to Afghanistan or become a new source of confusion."




CANADA:  "Safety's In Their Scope"


Editor emeritus Peter Worthington observed in the conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun (10/7):  "There are close to 400 journalists in Kabul for the election, which increasingly is seen as a test of U.S. President George W. Bush's policy to democratize the Middle East.  If the election goes smoothly here, it will be interpreted as success for Bush, which may be why rumours of al-Qaida and Chechen terrorists planning something are rampant among journalists at the Intercontinental and Mustapha hotels.  Of course, one never knows, but there's no mood of emergency in Kabul and the high alert of the International Security Assistance Force has a sobering effect.  Afghanistan is not Iraq and a successful Afghan election has little relevance to democracy in Iraq, though it would bode well for President Bush's re-election."


"Aid Afghan Democrats"


Liberal Toronto Star opined (10/7):  "Once a new president is installed, Canada should step up pressure at the United Nations for a stronger international peacekeeping force.  For disarming the warlords' 60,000 fighters and rebuilding the national army.  And for suppressing the opium and heroin trade.  We also must push the world to underwrite a needed $28 billion aid program.  Just $8 billion has been pledged, and only partly delivered, because of the security vacuum.  Afghanistan's democrats are defying feudalism, anarchy and terror.  They deserve our help."


"The World Beyond Kabul"


The conservative National Post wrote (Internet Version, 9/27):  "It is not yet clear just how or when Canada's military role in Afghanistan will expand.  Still, Paul Martin, the Prime Minister, is to be commended for promising on Tuesday to finally permit our troops to again operate outside the relative safety of the capital, Kabul....  It is an effort worthy of our Armed Forces, but it is also potentially dangerous.  Not every regional leader or warlord shares Mr. Karzai's dream of a peaceful, pluralistic Afghanistan.  It is this threat that has discouraged Ottawa's Liberals from authorizing a more dangerous role for our troops before now.  For having overcome this fear, the federal Cabinet deserves credit.  There may yet be a devil in the details, when they are released.  But for now, we welcome the government's commitment to become more actively involved in ending Afghanistan's turmoil."



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