October 19, 2004
AFGHAN ELECTIONS: DEMOCRACY TAKES 'ITS FIRST TEETERING STEPS'
** Global media hail first elections as "historic" success, a "milestone" towards "modernity."
** Afghan papers laud "people's participation"; some independent voices decry "blatant fraud."
** Skeptics question legitimacy, contend it's too early to know if democracy has "taken root."
** Some praise the "wide participation" of Afghan women as a "great achievement."
A 'landmark' in Afghanistan's 'tortured history'-- The peaceful result in Afghanistan defied the media's dire predictions. "Confounding all Cassandras," observed India's centrist Pioneer, "the Afghan elections went off smoothly, with an impressively large voter turnout." Despite security worries, "threats of reprisals" by the Taliban and a "ravaged" country, Afghans went to the polls to mark "a milestone in the progress toward modernity." The right-leaning Pakistan Observer praised the Afghan public's "maturity, self confidence and vision to overcome the ongoing turmoil." Euro and Canadian papers concluded: "Politically the Taliban are finished," and deemed the willingness of Afghans to go to the polls "even more important than who they vote for." Realizing "Afghanistan has a long way to go," the conservative Dutch De Telegraaf stressed that "the people themselves have lit a lantern to light the way to the end of the tunnel."
'People's participation decided election'-- Proclaiming a "national day of happiness," most Afghan papers credited "unprecedented" popular participation of the people with putting an end to decades of "totalitarian and despotic" systems of government. "Some time ago nobody thought the Afghan nation would hold...elections successfully," Kabul's pro-government Hewad reflected, but this shows "our war-stricken nation is determined to achieve peace and democracy." A Herat News Center broadcaster asserted "we should no longer be afraid of the weapons of powerful oppressors and warlords." Some independent dailies, however, fumed about alleged "irregularities." An editorial in Cheragu blared: "This blatant fraud throws into question the role of the will of the people in the election of their future leader."
'Far from normal'-- Naysayers on the left and in the developing world claimed the "jury is still out" on whether democracy has "taken root." Euro skeptics called this success "elusive"; the country is "far from being peaceful...and far from democracy," intoned Luxembourg's Tageblatt. An Indonesian daily regretted that conditions for a full democracy in Afghanistan "practically do not exist." Others questioned whether an election run by "remote control" from Washington could have legitimacy. If the new president continues to "depend solely on the U.S.," he will fail to win the confidence of his people or to bring any "positive change." Yet for Afghanistan to succeed, it must have "unequivocal backing of the international community."
Women determined to have 'say in their future'-- Some writers were moved by the "truly impressive" turnout of Afghan women, which a Canadian editor said "put an end to the lie" that Muslims are "reluctant to accept democracy." According to the Kabul Times, women braved the elements "to seal their...destiny by choosing a man who had bestowed on them equal rights with men." But cynical Turkish writers demurred, judging the photos of "completely veiled" women as "tragic," reminiscent of the dark ages and a "reason for shame for the Islamic world."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Irene Marr
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 88 reports from 35 countries over 9-19 October 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
AFGHANISTAN: "Not Yet Begun"
Independent Erada maintained (10/14): "According to independent media, the vote-counting process has not yet begun.... On the other hand, ballot boxes have been opened in the counting centres all over the country to check and scrutinize the votes in the boxes. This is a part of the vote-counting process. However, if the ballot boxes are opened and if the vote-count is not carried out, will it not void the confidentiality of votes and the voting process? Delaying the vote-counting process...opens a door for fraud, forgery and doubts in the minds of the people and presidential hopefuls in particular."
"A Good Experience For Our People"
Independent Dari-language weekly Kabul Seerat said (10/13): "The presidential elections were finally held after a long wait and with public hustle bustle at a time when thousands of people of the country could not vote because of the security threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida particularly in the south, south-east and south-west of the country. This was the first time such elections had been held in Afghanistan, and thus they were of great importance nationally and internationally. It was Afghanistan's first experience on its way towards democracy. Therefore, the elections are considered to have been a great success for the people and the state of Afghanistan.... The elections have obvious political importance for the Afghan state.... The state and its supporters made strenuous efforts to ensure security, and people are happy with this. However, analysts and observers have concerns about some other issues. The use of ineffective inks to mark voters' fingers...is an issue which cannot be overlooked in a country like Afghanistan where there is little (political talent) for elections. This issue was reported from many provinces.... At the time when we are hardly a step away from success, our people have realized that statesmen and prominent political figures of the country still violate the principles of democracy to achieve power. The wide participation of women in the elections was another important point experienced in our country for the first time. This is considered a great achievement for Afghan women. We see the elections as a considerable achievement for the Afghan people. We hope our people will organize their affairs in compliance with new political standards and approaches in the future."
"The National Resolve Should Be Strengthened"
Pro-government national morning Pashto-language Hewad asserted (10/14): "Some time ago, nobody thought that the Afghan nation would hold the presidential elections successfully. Both men and women, the old and the young went to the polling stations with great enthusiasm and turned the elections into a major national festival. In several regions, people wore national clothes to dance and mark the elections. In fact, it was a national day of happiness. Our people, who are thirsty for peace, security and stability, were overjoyed on this day.... This is an extraordinary step toward progress in the current chaotic phase and it encourages us to utilize the current circumstances to form a state system and fulfil more achievements. The Afghan nation successfully emerged from the critical test of elections and the international community welcomes its victory. At present, we are facing several problems and troubles. We should fulfil heavy responsibilities in the near future. If victory is the end of one test, it is the start of another problematic test. The results of the presidential elections will be declared in two weeks time and the president elected by direct vote will also be announced. However, this is not the end. We should continue making indefatigable efforts. The nation should not assume that it has accomplished its mission and that the president will be responsible for everything. Taking into consideration our national interests, we should back the future president and remain committed to making efforts to strengthen national unity. Every compatriot should pray to God during Ramadan and help the poor. Our people should strengthen their determination."
"A Good Experience For Our People"
Independent Dari weekly Seerat Dari editorialized (10/13): "It was Afghanistan's first experience on its way towards democracy.... The elections have obvious political importance for the Afghan state, for presidential candidates, parties and organizations.... However...the use of ineffective inks to mark voters' fingers...is an issue which cannot be overlooked in a country like Afghanistan where there is little (political talent) for elections.... Although supporters of all presidential candidates might have taken advantage of this flaw, the Joint Electoral Management Body, which must be an independent institution, comes in for criticism. At the time when we are hardly a step away from success, our people have realized that statesmen and prominent political figures of the country still violate the principles of democracy to achieve power. The wide participation of women in the elections was another important point experienced in our country for the first time. This is considered a great achievement for Afghan women. We see the elections as a considerable achievement for the Afghan people. We hope our people will organize their affairs in compliance with new political standards and approaches in the future."
"A Coalition Government Or A Government Supported By The People?
Dari-language Herat News Center opined (10/12): "During the election campaign, people expected the number of presidential candidates to decrease because the candidates should give preference to interests of the nation before their own group or personal interests. It was an opportunity for a number of candidates to put aside their personal interests, coalesce with a candidate who is more trustworthy to the people and help establish a government with people's participation. However, the candidates did not realize current challenges in the country and none of them backed down. Thus, they actually harmed their own political position and the national economy. Furthermore, they did not achieve anything and wasted their chance. If we think more deeply about how polling process was held, we realize that millions of people went to the polls and decided about their future fate. However, the candidates did not play any role in this respect. In fact, they only thought of gaining power and their own interests. Therefore, the future government should ensure that people can be no longer tricked by the slogans of a number of people who ignored the Bonn Agreement, the world community's decisions, people's aspirations and people's dire needs. Now that the candidates have been defeated and judged by history, they are no longer effective. The future government will be established as a result of millions of people's votes.... Now, it is time to enforce real meritocracy and appoint professional and talented people to [government] posts. We should no longer be afraid of the weapons of powerful oppressors and warlords."
"Head Of The Transitional Islamic State...Do You Not Care Why They Threw Into Question Legitimacy Of Election?"
Independent weekly Cheragh in Dari editorialized (10/12): "More facts are revealed every day that unfortunately throw into question the country's first general election, in which the people and the forces of law and order did a good job.... We all saw that despite security worries and the discouraging bad weather, the people warmly welcomed the election in an unprecedented manner that surprised those directing the process and the international community.... Available instruments and documents were not up to requirements. The people had promised to take a rational and peaceful approach to gaining power, rather than resorting to physical violence and weapons. But, the election commission's failure to provide services to the people did not quench their thirst.... Alas, the reckless treatment and abuse of your trust on the part of election commission officials has made hundreds of men and women, young and old, curse those behind such a game and return to their homes with broken hearts and frustrated that their rights have been trampled upon. This naivety on the part of election officials is no less harmful than the hostile actions of the Taliban and Al-Qa'ida. If these enemies strike a blow to the front in the dark of night, then these election officials stabbed us in the back in broad daylight. In this way, they joined hands with the enemies of Afghanistan.... They want to destroy the reviving confidence of the people, government and the international community. Fighting that team is as important as fighting Al-Qa'ida and the warlords."
"Participation Of Women In Elections"
Ali Kazemi editorialized in pro-government English-language Kabul Times (10/12): "After the enthusiasm shown by men in the first ever presidential elections, what was most striking was the eager participation of women.... There were numerous elderly men and women among the voters who were using canes and shaking all over because of cold but kept standing long to take turns. The lady in the panel said she had seen many women shedding tears of joy for the first opportunity afforded them to vote as equal members of society to choose their national leader. These women, though most of them illiterate, realized the importance of these elections and had braved the inclement weather to seal their future destiny by choosing a man who had bestowed on them equal rights with men."
"The Spectacular Election And The Embarrassing Fraud"
Independent weekly Cheragh in Dari editorialized (10/11): "Throughout the political life of our country, various events and inefficient people have repeatedly caused the nation grief, and, following the desires of their masters, have negated the people's participation in political and social life. Under the black rule of the Taliban in particular, our people did not have the right to even question these known aliens. They were even tortured and beaten by these foreigners at the doors of their houses. With a new regime taking power in the country, the people enthusiastically welcomed their first experience of an election.... Unfortunately, however, the evident fraud in the course of the election turned the people's happiness into sorrow.... Unfortunately, this was engineered not by the people or a patriotic group, but by a certain circle that embarrassed all of the people. This [fraud] will particularly affect the person who will be the future president. The people will then think all of those fraudulent efforts were made to make that gentleman president.... It is a pity that the poor Afghan nation spent millions of dollars to hold an election, but this blatant fraud throws into question the role of the will of the people in the election of their future leader."
"18 Mizan, A Glorious Day In The History Of The Country"
Nadir commented in independent daily Erada in Pashto (10/11): "We can deem 18 Mizan 1383 [9 October 2004] a glorious day in the history of our country, because on this day our countrymen...in the presence of a free and democratic atmosphere bestowed upon them since the establishment of the interim government in our country, went to the polling stations in order to choose their fate and vote for a person who, according to their view and will, could better serve their country and compatriots.... Our compatriots once again showed their unity and cohesion to the world.... The popular turnout at the polling stations has proved that our countrymen can now defend the freedom bestowed upon them, and no-one can play with their lives any more. The participation of our countrymen in the election the other day and the perfectly maintained security during the polls proved that the coming [parliamentary] elections in our country will be held with more courage and in a peaceful environment.... The relevant authorities should resolve all the problems and shortcomings which emerged during this election in time for the upcoming parliamentary election in order to prevent such problems and reactions. Nevertheless, the present election has been completed throughout the country with great enthusiasm and with the participation of all our compatriots. All presidential candidates should welcome it. We will see how the future president of our country manages to fulfil his promises and become a symbol of service to the people of our country with the help of the present resources."
Pro-government national evening Anis editorialized (10/11): "The election day will be recorded as a positive turning point in the modern history of Afghanistan.... The unprecedented turnout of masses of people in the first presidential election has put an end to the totalitarian and despotic systems of government that the Afghan people have suffered over the last decades. Despite the fact that the 14 presidential candidates unfairly called the legitimacy of the election into question and decided to boycott the election for minor problems, our people do not want their major victory turned into shame and failure.... The presidential candidates had better understand that boycotting the election is the right of the people, not theirs."
Independent Cheragh declared (10/11): "Certain presidential candidates had repeatedly expressed concern that there would be cases of fraud and forgery in the election process. The election commission and relevant international institutions should have taken candidates' concerns seriously.... Their negligence and inattention not only caused the candidates' anticipation and speculations to come true, but also proved the Taliban's claims that the election is symbolic and a tool to deceive the people."
State-run Eslah noted (10/11): "The Afghan presidential election ended successfully.... Despite the fact that certain candidates expressed concern over minor irregularities that occurred during the polling process and decided to boycott the election, their threats could not disrupt the election process as people all over the country determinedly participated in the poll."
Independent Arman-e Melli commented (10/11): "The opposition candidates have boycotted the election based on concrete and solid evidence. This has created a climate of crisis in the country.... The only way to get out of the crisis is to set up an independent and authorized commission to examine and assess the whole process of the 9 October presidential poll."
"A Great Historic Event"
Eastern Afghan daily Jalalabad Nangarhar in Dari and Pashto editorialized (10/9): "The 9 October 2004 is an exceptionally important day in the history of Afghanistan. An historic day that opens a new positive chapter in the political life of Afghanistan took place on this day. Following the implementation of the Bonn Agreements, the general election was a crucial step taken to implement democracy in Afghanistan. The voter registration program, the election campaign and the polling process were all carried out successfully. History has recorded the entire election campaign, its ups and downs, positive and negative points and all efforts made to hold the election. History always reveals the facts and realities, without taking into consideration the rank and position of a person, and fairly judges events. It has recorded past incidents in their entirety. Similarly, the name and activities of anyone who has rendered services in the recent political events will be recorded in history.... Election officials carried out their duties in an organized and smooth manner.... Besides, security was completely maintained. UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan], the Human Rights Commission, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), the relevant government authorities, security officials and other pertinent organs have done their utmost to create an atmosphere of cooperation, unity and peace. Their efforts are praiseworthy, despite minor shortcomings and technical problems during the polling process."
INDIA: "Remarkable Feat"
Centrist The Pioneer (10/15): "Confounding all Cassandras, the Afghan elections went off smoothly on October 9 with an impressively large voter turnout. If this was remarkable considering the harsh weather conditions and the threat of violence held out by the Taliban, the Al Qaeda and regional warlords, what made it even more remarkable was that, according to estimates, over 40 per cent of the voters were women. What was truly impressive was mass participation in the electoral process even by burqa-clad women in the countryside, and this despite the fact that in many areas men had declared that their wives and daughters would not vote. Deeply scarred by their experience during the medieval and nightmarish Taliban rule, women seem to have become determined to have a say in their own future. If so, this must be regarded as a most encouraging portent for the future of democracy not only in Afghanistan but the rest of the world as well. The remnants of the Taliban, who ran the bulk of Afghanistan when they were ousted in November, 2001, and the Al Qaeda, which had set up its headquarters there, continue to be active in the country's eastern provinces bordering Pakistan and the latter's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. As has been seen, they can stage terrorist strikes even in Kabul. They have to be dealt with militarily. The Americans, who have to play an important role in this, need to enhance their presence as well as enlarge the scope of their operations. It will be a pity if their involvement in Iraq comes in the way. Meanwhile, it is not just the Americans but the entire developed world that has to do its bit for Afghanistan's reconstruction. The point needs to be made because their contributions have fallen far short of commitments and ostensibly because of uncertainties about the future of the Karzai regime. "
"Election Without Groundwork"
Punyapriya Dasgupta wrote in Bangalore-based left-of-center English daily Deccan Herald (10/15): "Indelible ink is now the villain of the Afghan election drama. The Taliban failed to take up the role it had promised to play with a devastating effect.... The aristocratic Hamid Karzai shows a calm face and argues that his 15 rivals were not more important than the millions of men and women who had demonstrated their longing for democracy by flocking to the polling stations despite the Taliban threats of violence. Deeper inside, he banks not so much on Afghan votes as on American protection.... Washington insisted that the election of Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan must be pushed through before President Bush faced his electorate in early November. The US President needed it more urgently than the Afghan people. With Hamid Karzai by his side at the White House in June, President Bush had identified Afghanistan as the 'first victory in the war on terror.' This was a part of the Bush campaign for re-election.... On the eve of the election President Karzai tried to shake off some of the more intractable of the warlords but without any great success. Ismail Khan was removed as the Governor of Herat but to stop the rioting that followed, he was requested by Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador of Afghan origin, who makes many decisions for President Karzai, to appeal on television for restoration of calm. Some of the warlords were candidates in the presidential election and will almost certainly be wooed into new working equations with President Karzai."
"An Experiment In Democracy"
The centrist Hindu editorialized (10/14): "The first presidential election in Afghanistan's history is back on course with the candidates contesting against the incumbent Hamid Karzai giving up their demand for the polls to be annulled. Karzai's 15 rivals alleged that the election had been vitiated by widespread malpractices and declared that they would boycott the vote count if the exercise was not cancelled.... International observers...did draw attention to several flaws in the electoral system. However, they were of the view that the shortcomings were not of such a magnitude as to warrant annulment of the election.... While the counting of ballots is not likely to be completed before the end of October...Karzai was poised to win by a significant margin. However, the validity of this finding is questionable given the difficulties of carrying out surveys in Afghanistan.... A verdict on the future of democracy in multi-ethnic Afghanistan will have to be withheld until a parliament is duly constituted. In holding the presidential election while repeatedly postponing parliamentary polls, the Karzai Government opened itself to the criticism that it was pursuing the agenda of someone else. The timing of the Afghan election was certainly convenient for U.S. President Bush, who will cite the successful completion of the exercise as a foreign policy triumph. Bush is bound to play up the developments in Afghanistan in the few remaining weeks of his re-election campaign. However, the real winners are the Afghan people who put the horrors of the past behind them and moved decisively to build a new future."
"Imported Democracy Will Not Work In The Long Run"
The centrist Times of India noted (10/14): "Do the recently-concluded Afghan elections mean that democracy has taken root? Clearly not. Massive security may have prevented disruptions.... But large tracts of the country are still under the control of either the Taliban or other warlords. In other words, it is not quite so easy for Washington to export its pre-fab democracy into what is essentially a fractious and tribal land. Karzai does not have popular acceptance as he is seen as a puppet of America. Indeed, he cannot venture out of his Kabul palace without American security; Afghan security is considered risky. The recent elections have done nothing to improve the plight of the ordinary Afghan. Instead, it has merely installed Karzai as the mayor of Kabul with no power to effect real change. The democratic process cannot be imposed by an alien power, it has to come from the grass roots. For example, why were local level elections not held first? Democracy must evolve in keeping with the culture and ethos of different nations. The U.S. model is not necessarily the best for everyone. Propping up Karzai as the custodian of democracy will only create more resentment and chaos in Afghanistan. At the moment, Afghanistan is among the poorest and least developed nations in the world. Its people are struggling for survival. A dose of U.S.-style democracy hardly seems a viable remedy at this juncture."
The Hyderabad-based pro-Congress English-language Deccan Chronicle opined (10/12): "The successful conclusion of the first-ever presidential elections in Afghanistan on Saturday marks the advent of democracy in a country that has never known that phenomenon in its entire tortured history. For that reason alone, the first democratic 'experiment' deserves to be hailed as the harbinger of a new way of life for the Afghans who have rarely, if ever, enjoyed long stretches of peace, stability and security.... The peaceful and orderly conduct of the polls in a country which has had no experience of direct elections is by itself an achievement Afghanistan's election authorities can be proud of. Even so, the sudden boycott call issued by all the 15 contenders against interim president Hamid Karzai raised a disturbing question mark over the outcome. Karzai's rivals challenged the legitimacy of the polls in the wake of complaints against the use of faulty ink to mark voters' thumbs and demanded fresh elections. Fortunately, anxieties in this regard have been assuaged with the setting up of an independent commission to assess the fairness of the voting."
"Breeze Of Democracy In Afghanistan"
An editorial in Hyderabad-based pro-Congress Telugu Vaartha (10/13): "The first democratic election in Afghanistan, though held under the remote control of President Bush and the strong supervision of the U. S. Army, is certainly a historic event. George Bush, who lost his image in the Iraq war, used the elections in Afghanistan as a tool to impress his fellow Americans in the forthcoming Presidential elections. The U. S. is also aiming to rake in profits in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. People in Afghanistan are well aware of the evil designs of the United States."
"One More Revolution In Afghanistan"
An editorial in pro-Congress Qaumi Awaz (10/12): "The magnitude of participation of the Afghan people in their first experience of electing a president reflected their both their curiosity and enthusiasm for the new chapter to be opened in their history. However, it is a formidable task to bring the country to normalcy and initiate the process of economic growth. Regardless of who is elected in the presidential race, the reconstruction of the country ravaged beyond recognition by internal war and foreign invasions is extremely difficult, which can be done only with the cooperation of the international community. Yet, if the new president continues to depend solely on the U.S., he will fail in winning the confidence of his people and bringing any substantial and positive change to the current situation. The new president has to get himself free of American dominance and initiate reconstruction process with a wider vision and in accordance with the aspirations of his people who have never accepted the foreign invasion and dominance. He must seek the help from the wider international community that holds the sovereignty and independence of the Afghan people with true respect."
An editorial in the centrist Telegraph (10/13): "Critics who think that the elections were premature and just an American propaganda exercise feel that this sum should have been spent on health and education instead. Yet, the fact remains that elections have happened in this epically rugged, ravaged and unruly terrain.... Afghanistan has not held any form of election since the late Sixties, and has never directly chosen any leader. So it would be well to put cynicism aside and see this as some sort of a triumph - of something that looks like democracy. For a nation without any democratic infrastructure, and impoverished by invasions, warlords, insurgents and opium, this is a milestone in the progress towards modernity. The exit poll augurs well too. Karzai, a Pashtun Afghan face that the international community likes to see, could be heading for a landslide victory. This exit poll was conducted by a Washington-based think-tank, associated with President Bush's own party. So the stakes do not lie simply in the establishment of democracy in Afghanistan. If the United States of America, its allies, the UN and the NATO manage to see the show through, including the parliamentary elections in April, then there might be hope for Iraq. This, in turn, would bode well for Messrs Bush and Blair with regard to their respective electorates."
"A Symbolic Election"
The centrist Indian Express declared (10/11): "Saturday's presidential polls in Afghanistan--although it may not compare to our normal understanding of democratic elections--constitute a landmark in the tortured history of Afghanistan.... Nearly three years after the U.S.-led coalition waged the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban and its leader are still around and reportedly gaining strength and support. The joint U.S.-Pakistani offensive on the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders has yielded few results except for high Pakistani casualties.... The security of the country is far from normal and the American media and experts, including Senator John Kerry, have been extremely critical of the Bush administration for having taken the focus off from the Taliban and al-Qaida--the reason for the war against terror.... Institutions are the bedrock of every society and state. In Afghanistan, they have remained tribal in nature. And moving toward a western style democracy is the last thing we should expect if the country is to move toward secular peace and moderation in its domestic and external outlook. Building institutions in Afghanistan, therefore, would have to be based on the foundations of its tribal society with a devolution of power over time. It is more sustainable to formalize traditional power distribution patterns rather than impose an system that would remain alien for decades."
PAKISTAN: "Afghan Presidential Elections Should Bring Stability"
An editorial in the Lahore-based independent Urdu-language Din (10/19): "The holding of election in Afghanistan in present circumstance is itself a major event of this century and even more promising is the fact that the election was held in a peaceful atmosphere. Looking at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders’ threats and act of terrorism before the election one could conclude that Afghanistan’s new political and state structure would be able to take root."
"The Stained Afghan Polls"
Imtiaz Gul commented in the Lahore-based English language liberal independent weekly The Friday Times (10/15): "The ink scandal in Afghanistan has dealt a blow to President Bush’s hopes in the final weeks of his re-election campaign of showcasing Afghanistan’s maiden vote as his spectacular achievement in the global fight against terrorism. Bush’s aides are now working feverishly to put the rigging allegations behind them and give legitimacy to the poll process. Several opposition candidates have already agreed to legitimize the election after America’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, met them after they had boycotted the vote. (The state-owned Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd (MPVL) which exported 50,000 indelible ink markers to Afghanistan has been the sole supplier of the ink for polls in India since 1962. During elections to the Lok Sabha and Assembly in April-May, it supplied 1.8 million bottles to the Election Commission.).
"Hiccups In Afghan Poll"
Najmuddin A. Shaikh opined in Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn (10/13): "A remarkable development has taken place in Afghanistan. In conformity with the predictions of President Hamid Karzai and the Americans, an extremely high turnout was witnessed.... The turnout, by all accounts, was heavy in all parts of the country, and credible reports suggest that women in large numbers were among those who lined up for hours to cast their vote.... However, eyewitness accounts appear to suggest that the turnout may have been as large as 80 per cent of the registered voters, and that it was just as heavy in the troubled south and southeast as it was in the relatively calmer areas in the north. The Taliban did not make any serious effort to disrupt the elections and their previous threats had failed to deter the voters even in areas formerly regarded as Taliban strongholds.... President Bush declared the election a success while making no mention of the boycott call.... There was thus no room for doubt left about how the American administration wanted the elections to be viewed.... Needless to say, Karzai, too, will have reason to be grateful to Pakistan. All in all, the vast majority of Pakistanis have reason to be pleased with the way in which the election has gone and the hiccup has been handled."
"Afghan Poll And Beyond"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn opined (10/12): "It is a matter of relief that Afghanistan's first-ever, and therefore, historic presidential election held on Saturday passed off largely peacefully. There were no reports of widespread disruption or intimidation by the remnants of the Taliban or the feuding warlords holding sway in the provinces, as threatened by these quarters.... This is all good news for the war-ravaged country which has had no history of democratic institutions nor an electoral process.... The Afghan people's enthusiastic participation in Saturday's election, braving threats of disruption and bad weather, seems to have been an important factor in defeating the designs of those who had threatened violence on the poll day.... The planned parliamentary elections to be held in April or May next year are going to be a major democratic exercise for which calm and security must prevail all around. The enormous task of the ravaged country's reconstruction and rehabilitation of millions of displaced Afghans will also have to be begun in earnest sooner than later. None of these challenging tasks before the elected president can wait for too long to be started. Kabul needs unequivocal backing of the international community, particularly the U.S., UN, EU and Japan, who have time and again pledged such support but have provided much less in actual terms so far. In this regard, increasing the strength and scope of the NATO-backed International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan can be a good beginning."
"Meanwhile, In Afghanistan"
An editorial in the Lahore-based liberal English daily Daily Times (10/12): "It is important to address the grievances of those presidential candidates who voiced concern about the credibility of these elections. Their demand to nullify the polls, as observed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is unfair. But they must not be arm-twisted into accepting the outcome of this exercise. Indeed, the establishment of an independent panel to probe allegations of election irregularities is probably the answer. After all, Mr. Karzai needs to bring his rivals back into the political mainstream - or face the challenge of ruling a polarized society."
"Afghan Presidential Elections Marred By Rigging Allegations"
An editorial in the second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt (10/12): "The election process in Afghanistan has concluded amid allegations of rigging and incidents of lawlessness.... Although the elections were not a hundred percent peaceful - there were explosions in Kabul and unpleasant events in other areas too - yet the widespread resistance that was being expected from the Taliban did not materialize.... The boycott by Hamid Karzai’s opponents has not only made these elections controversial and suspect, but has also laid the foundation for a new political tug-of-war which can create difficulties for Hamid Karzai.... Peace will return to Afghanistan only when the U.S. troops withdraw from the country and let the Afghans form a government of their own choice through elections."
The center-right national English-language Nation editorialized (10/12): "The Afghan Presidential polls were the first of their kind in the country’s history, where people had voted enthusiastically ended on Saturday amid a boycott by all the rivals of President Hamid Karzai.... The Joint Election Management Body (JEMB) charged with conducting the polls has maintained that the wrong ink was used to mark the voters’ fingers in some places as a result of 'a minor misunderstanding' on the part of the electoral staff who mistakenly used the pens meant to mark the ballots. Earlier the multiple registrations too were explained away as a result of inexperience of the election staff. In other words, if the staff had been properly trained and a number of rehearsals held before the polls, the situation would not have arisen. While it is true that this was not a bad first-time-ever, many think better training could have been imparted had it not been for the impatience shown by Washington which wanted Afghan polls held under all circumstances before the U.S. Presidential elections to allow Mr. Bush to claim he had brought democracy to Afghanistan as he had promised."
"Democracy In Afghanistan,"
An editorial in the Islamabad rightist English-language Pakistan Observer held (10/11): "The historic presidential election in Afghanistan has been held on Saturday without any major incident of violence although all the candidates opposing Mr. Hamid Karzai announced boycott of the poll on the charge of rigging. The mood in most of the places appeared irrepressibly upbeat. Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran also polled their votes.... Though this was the first presidential election in Afghan history, the participation of the voters represented the Afghan public’s maturity, self-confidence and vision to overcome the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan resulting from various factors including warlordism. The boycott of the poll by Mr. Karzai’s rivals was certainly an unbecoming act. It’s a nascent process to establish democracy in Afghanistan.... It’s believed that on this presidential election depended redemption of the international community’s pledges of financial assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war ravaged country.... The fact is that Islamabad has gone out of the way to ensure peaceful and smooth poll in Afghanistan. It had taken extra care and moved additional troops to the Pak-Afghan border to foil any sabotage attempt. It also made excellent arrangements for the Afghan refugees in Pakistan to freely exercise their vote. Pakistan joins the international community in hoping that the presidential poll will lead Afghanistan to a new era of stability, rehabilitation and reconstruction."
"Afghanistan’s Presidential Elections And Responsibility Of Political Forces"
Leading mass-circulation Urdu-language Jang asserted (10/11): "Afghanistan had been under oligarchy for centuries and still today it is suffering from racial, linguistic, and tribal disharmony and civil war. In these circumstances the holding of presidential elections by President Hamid Karzai is no doubt an important achievement. However due to inexperience, insufficient information, lack of professional competence and unawareness of electoral rules and regulations, any mistakes or shortcomings during the election process could not be ruled out. All the candidates should realize this and as such there is no justification for the boycott of elections. The interest of not only Afghanistan but also the entire region is attached to the beginning of the new democratic process in Afghanistan. Given that not a single candidate withdrew from the election process despite various temptations is quite encouraging."
"Afghanistan’s First Presidential Elections”
Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan stated (10/11): "Afghanistan’s first presidential elections were marred by rigging allegations and boycott with 15 out of 17 candidates demanding reelection.... An election in Afghanistan is a giant leap for being the first ever in that country.... No doubt that President Hamid Karzai has the backing of America and other foreign powers, but the impression is also rife that Mr. Karzai has the support and popularity within the country. People are siding with him knowing that a ruler backed by America would be able to give Afghanistan peace and stability.... All the candidates of the Afghanistan election should keep in mind that if they did not create the harmony needed for democracy and did not let it take root then they would be making the job of enemies of Afghanistan easier."
KAZAKHSTAN: "Whether They Vote or Not, Khamid Karzai Will Be Elected"
Independent progressive weekly Vremya commented (10/15): “At first glance life in Kabul reminds one of the jumble in a women’s handbag. But at a closer look you realize that it is a sensible chaos, like in an anthill or beehive, where each one knows his own task, and the center of organization is hidden from prying eyes. I had similar feelings about the elections [in Afghanistan] as well-planned disorder.… Karzai for Afghanistan is probably not the worse choice - a secular, not wild, sound-minded, educated, and predictable president. And don’t forget - a former American businessman. That means he has the right common sense for the United States. For so many years Afghanistan, like Iraq, was a weak point for the United States, and it was high time to 'straighten them out.' The West has already declared the Afghan elections democratic.… But just remember the OSCE's and United States' criticism of the Majilis elections in Kazakhstan. If a double standard is the price for geopolitical influence in Central Asia, then the United States is always ready to pay it.”
“Miracle Of Democracy In Afghanistan"
Boris Glymov held in official Kazakhstanskaya Pravda (10/16): “The indulgent attitude of the U.S. towards gross violations of electoral procedures can be easily explained. Afghani elections are considered as a prelude to November presidential elections in the USA.… Bush badly needed 'news from Afghanistan about successes' in order to distract public attention from situation in Iraq.... For a country with entire districts lacking telephones and electricity, with 10% literacy, other input from the United States could have been more effective and might have brought Afghanistan closer to democracy. However, after just a brief glance at this problem, one concludes that Afghanistan will most likely remain a mere pawn in a big international game.”
BANGLADESH: "The Afghan Election"
The independent English-language News Today commented (10/12): "War-weary Afghans have at long last tasted their first democratic election. Notwithstanding the accusations of fraud and incompetence and the boycott by 15 opposition candidates, the first democratic election in Afghanistan was a success. The final result or what could happen afterwards is all of secondary importance given the huge turnout of voters braving all kinds of problems came out and exercised their franchise. The biggest success was that the election ended without any major law and order problem. It indeed was a historic landmark for the country ravaged by decades of war, hunger and international isolation. The Afghans were eager to take part in the democratic process and the large turnout of voters defied all predictions. Hamid Karzai, who is expected to win, now has a platform to answer the critics who doubted the government's ability to conduct the election. Until recently Afghanistan was in no condition to hold a free and fair election. Most parts of the country had been witnessing violence unleashed by militias of provincial leaders. The UN did a commendable job of carrying out the registration process while facing security risks."
BRITAIN: "Terrorism Loses The Vote"
The conservative Daily Telegraph commented (10/11): "Yesterday, the largest group of international observers declared the Afghan poll was mostly fair. Granted, the 15 candidates challenging Hamid Karazi are disputing the result and claiming a type of ink used in the process could easily be rubbed off. But when you consider that Afghanistan has never had an election on this scale before; that the average life expectancy in that benighted country is just 42 and that only 36 per cent of adults can read; and when you also take into account that in the past 30 years it has been invaded twice, suffered a coup, a civil war and the oppression of the Taliban, this weekend's election is progress indeed. About eight million Afghans voted for the first time, including many women who have never been allowed to exercise much freedom at all, let alone the right to choose how they are governed.”
An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (10/11): “In the case of Afghanistan, the very fact of its holding democratic presidential elections is the most optimistic sign to come from that country for some time. Despite last-minute turmoil when 15 presidential rivals to the interim president, Hamid Karzai, called for a boycott over possible voting fraud, election observers declared the election to be fairly conducted. The sight of long queues patiently waiting outside polling stations on Saturday is some vindication of the international efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan, as is the absence of serious reprisals and violent attempts at disruption that had been threatened by supporters of the Taliban.”
"Dawn Of Freedom: Afghanistan’s Election Was A Triumph For Democracy"
The conservative Times maintained (10/11): “Afghans insist that Mr. Karzai will win because he is backed by America. That neither invalidates nor diminishes the importance of this exercise for most people. For them, what matters is stability after 25 years of war. They know that this election was a prerequisite for the political equilibrium essential to reconstruction, economic revival and the education denied to so many for so long. The extremists determined to reimpose their malign Islamist theocracy know this as well. Their failure to intimidate voters is a significant loss of face that may fracture their attempts to regroup and fuel a sputtering insurgency.”
FRANCE: "Hope In Kabul"
Left-of-center Le Monde declared (10/13): “The main outcome of these elections and what is most comforting, is that they actually took place and were conducted in a relatively calm atmosphere.... It marks a victory for democracy, something that was not guaranteed at the outset.... The U.S. President who is engaged in a difficult election campaign can indeed be happy about this success, even if he cannot do anything about the bad news coming from Iraq. But Afghanistan also serves to remind President Bush that his obsession about Saddam Hussein kept him from the real war against terrorism, Bin Laden and Al-Qaida.... In order for the Afghan experience to be a success, after almost failing, the U.S. and Europe will need to be completely committed for the long term and give all their support to the newly elected President.”
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (10/11): “The Afghan ballot boxes can be interpreted like the proverbial half-full or half-empty glass. There are reasons to be pleased with the Afghan elections. The Afghan ballot box is half-full: the vote took place, in spite of the Taliban. Millions of Afghans tasted the fruit of democracy which has been denied them since the dawn of time. Their fate has dramatically improved since Mullah Omar’s flight.... Three million refugees voted by returning to Afghanistan.... Hamid Karzai, the probable winner, will gain in legitimacy. But there are also reasons to be concerned: the ballot box is also half-empty. These elections were organized with partially trumped-up election lists, with undeniable fraud and pressure of every sort...in a country which has become a sort of ‘narco-state.’ The genie of democracy which has come out of the ballot boxes has yet to spread its hold over Afghanistan to bring peace and security. The international efforts to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan after twenty years of war have been insufficient. The road from Kabul to Afghan democracy is not cut off. But that road would have been more secure if President Bush had not diverted the world’s attention in order to go on the road to Baghdad.”
GERMANY: "Struck Takes Cover In Afghanistan"
Peter Muench argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/14): "There will never be stability in Afghanistan without fighting insurgents. The missile attack on the German camp in Kunduz shows that. The two pillars of the mission--security and reconstruction--can exist under one command. Add the number of currently involved soldiers and there would be a powerful force. To combine both things could bring Afghanistan forward--at least as long as Americans do not just speak of merging the operation and actually mean the withdrawal of their troops."
"NATO As Toolbox"
Katja Ridderbusch commented in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/14): "It does not come as a surprise that the U.S. called upon their allies to put the U.S. counterterrorism operation under NATO command. Neither does it come as a surprise that usual suspects--Germany and France--vetoed it right from the start, saying NATO has a reconstructing mandate and not one to fight terror. And above all, Europeans are now threatening to pull out their troops if NATO is turned into an anti-terror unit in Afghanistan. This quarrel has become a ritual.... European partners say Americans want to use NATO as a toolbox in the future whenever it is in their political interest. But why should we oppose that? The toolbox must be well-kept and well-equipped with modern and flexible means."
Peter Muench commented in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/12): "A long-term military commitment is one of the pillars on which a newly built state must be based. Nothing goes without security. Those who say the Afghan election was a success mean the fact that terror attacks did not shake the country. But this success is elusive, as violence will remain a part of Afghan life as long as the world is not willing to launch a major military mission in the country. The warlords, whose disarmament slipped by, have not a lot of reasons to stick to the rules of democracy. But these rules would be the second pillar of nation building.... The third pillar is the economy. People need jobs and must be given prospects.... We have recognized the dangers, but we have not been able to minimize them. The brave new world--proclaimed by UN resolutions on the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan--is a confusing construction site. Nobody can be happy about it. If we put these new countries on pillars that are too weak, the buildings will falter again."
Sophie Muehlmann opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/12): "The UN had three years to prepare the historic elections. It has cost 200 million dollars, but the result is a blunder. The UN is risking the new president's urgently required legitimacy by an amateurish error. The ink that was supposed to mark the fingers of voters was so unstable like the hope for a new era in Afghanistan's history. Helpers should have been trained better to avoid what we have gotten now: a disputable result. If Karzai is now elected it will be a weak mandate for the president, who also lacked authority in the past. He will rely on unloved alliances to rule the divided country. And he will require foreign protection."
"Loss Of Loyalty"
Jasper von Altenbockum argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/11): "Those who apply democratic standards to Afghanistan should have declared the election as unfair a long time ago. Such standards cannot be met in the country of sinecures and bribes. Any attempt to establish a central power in Kabul by democratic participation and without force would be impossible. Karzai's opponents, who now claim to be the watchdogs of democracy, are representatives of democracy-hostile clans. Their fingers are as dirty as Karzai's and his Afghan followers. However, the people support the latter; a huge majority wanted to cast its vote. The mistrust did not regard the elections, but the incumbent president Karzai, who will still be seen as somebody inaugurated from outside--by the West."
"The Duty Of NATO"
Christoph Rabe stated in business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/11): "Whoever wins the election in Afghanistan, it will be described as a success in history books. Twenty-five years after the Soviet invasion, the civil war and the Taliban rule, Afghans have voted for their legitimated president for the first time. This is an important milestone on the way to democracy. It is extremely encouraging that no major attacks were committed. In comparison, the organizational blunders, registration errors and washable ink are minor incidents. At the end of the day, it was a convincingly fair election. Afghanistan will send a message to military dictators, authoritarian rulers and Mullahs, who still believe terror is an effective means to sustain their power. The U.S. will make that sure. There could not have been better news for President Bush. Despite all the problems in Iraq, he can now show off Afghanistan as a model."
ITALY: "Iraq Should Learn From Afghanistan"
An editorial in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore read (10/12): "Afghanistan is at an historical turning point following 25 years of massacres. The Afghans, who surprised everyone, were the first ones to contribute to this turning point: people showed up in peaceful masses and they demonstrated a will to accept the results much more than the brawling warlords and their representatives. The Taliban were surprising as well: they were not in the least bit capable of sabotaging the electoral process. The Afghans turned their backs on them. The harmony within the international community made these elections a success. Everyone was present: the American-led coalition, NATO, the UN and many NGO’s.... The presence of foreign troops is essential in Afghanistan, but so were diplomatic efforts by important neighbors like Iran and Pakistan. Iraq is still lacking in these strategic elements.... Afghans voted because they perceived that they would not be abandoned, as they had been in the past. Now that we are nearing the possibility of an international conference on Iraq, no one must forget the lesson learned in Afghanistan.”
"The Nightmare Of A Surprise Blow"
Boris Biancheri concluded in centrist, influential La Stampa (10/11): “The fear was that al-Qaida would have done everything in its power to hinder democratic elections in an Islamic country that it knows better than any other and in which it prospered for two decades. Instead it allowed--or perhaps it didn’t know how to stop--the elections to take place without tragedy and allowed them to achieve a final result: millions of Afghan men and women cast their votes for the first time and in an orderly fashion. The UN was right to reject reports of irregularities by Karzai’s rivals. Undoubtedly these were not perfect elections, but it would have been down right unrealistic to expect more.”
RUSSIA: "Elections Are Over. Problems Remain"
Roman Streshnev wrote in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (10/15): "For all the fears, the election went relatively smoothly.... After the U.S. Administration or rather the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan intervened, presidential candidates cooled off somewhat. Karzai's chief rivals... gave up the idea of a boycott. There is hardly any one among candidates who doubts that the victory will be Karzai's. It is just that, for them, the boycott is a way to make some money and get a cushy job with the government.... Whoever takes office will face very difficult tasks, including rebuilding and consolidating the nation and central government, resolving a host of social and economic problems, and fighting illicit drug barons, independent field commanders, and all sorts of radicals. Meanwhile the White House obviously seeks to get its NATO allies to take over control of operations in Afghanistan and to share most of responsibility for that country's future. So far, NATO member-states have showed little enthusiasm about the U.S. initiative."
AUSTRIA: "Successful Exercise In Democracy"
Willi Germund opined in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (10/12): "Politically, the Taliban are finished. During the first presidential elections in Afghanistan they demonstrated how little they can do. Not a single voter dead or injured: On Friday, nobody would have thought it possible that the balance would be so positive. All of a sudden, politics is the main issue on the Hindu Kush, not war or violent confrontations--a novelty for Afghanistan after a quarter of a century of conflicts. But peace can be deceptive. After the march to the voting booths on Saturday, there is the question of credibility. Afghanistan's first presidential election was fraught with so many irregularities that skeptics saw themselves proved right. However, there are no indications so far that the Afghans questioned the elections because of their shortcomings. And that is far more important when it comes to the future stabilization of Afghanistan than what is being said abroad."
CROATIA: "Entering Democracy"
Marinko Bobanovic observed in Zagreb-based government-owned Vjesnik (10/12): "However, regardless of the election results, Afghans have, with their massive turnout, sent an important message to the world. They have decided to support the international community’s attempts to introduce democracy in a country which, until three years ago, had harbored Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. On the other hand, these elections have been a strong message to London and Washington, who are struggling in the Iraqi hell, that spreading of democracy is much more credible and closer to success if the entire international community stands behind it.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "The Ethos Of Elections In A Non-Existing Country"
Pavel Masa observed in the center-right Lidove noviny (10/9): "The election in Afghanistan is a historically unique event since it is coming before the establishment of the state administration structures. However, Afghans see the elections as an important stepping-stone to the revival of their statehood.... There is no doubt that massive manipulation of public opinion in Afghanistan, financed by the Americans and other foreign countries, is taking place.... Nobody even tries to camouflage the fact that it will be the tribal chiefs who determine which of the candidates should be voted for.... Lamenting the weakness of Afghan 'democracy' is justifiable but rather out of place…. The willingness of about ten million Afghans to go to the elections, despite the threats from Taliban, is impressive. And it may be this courage, shown after many years of fighting that can become the beginning of the revival of the Afghan society. The fact that Afghans will actually attend the elections is even more important than who they will vote for.... On the other hand, the leaders of Taliban and Al Qaeda, which send their people to towns and villages in Afghanistan, know that if the election turnout is more than fifty percent it would mean the end of their power. All the optimistic scenarios, however, have one potential Achilles’ heel - the support of western countries and especially the U.S. must continue. To leave this impoverished country, this emerging state prematurely soon would be a catastrophy not only for Aghanistan, but also for the rest of the world. It would only prove that the international community is not capable of supressing the power aspirations of Islamic extremists."
DENMARK: "Karzai Is Probably The Best Man To Lead Afghanistan In The Short Term"
Left-wing Information editorialized (10/11): “There is nothing to suggest that Hamid Karzai is the right man to lead the people of Afghanistan, but he is probably the Afghan leader who is capable of achieving most in the short term…. Emergency aid must be given to Afghanistan at a level that we have not seen to date. If this does not happen, the world will have completely failed Afghanistan.”
Center-left Politiken editorialized (10/11): “The Afghans can use the fact that the election took place as evidence that the roots of democracy are taking hold.”
HUNGARY: "Afghan Potemkin Elections"
Foreign affairs editor Gabor Stier pointed out in conservative Magyar Nemzet (10/12): “The American leadership considered the Afghan elections a great victory in the fight against terrorism. George W. Bush, of course, is not alone in thinking that democracy can be exported, and that the U.S.' greatest mission is to promote that.... To divert attention from the difficulties of creating democracy in Iraq, [influential White House advisors] by all means wanted to time the Afghan success story--called upon to justify the aggressive foreign policy of the previous four years--before November. And if that’s how they thought, that’s how it happened.... If need be, it could be a democratic election, even if it is the kind that, in other cases, American politicians and the human rights organizations are so fond of criticizing.... The picture eerily reminds one of Chechnya where international organizations sharply criticized the elections. That, however, upsets few people now--just like the fact that the fight against terrorism, in many cases, only serves to mask certain [other] interests.”
Editor-in-chief adjunct Danièle Fonck stated in left-of-center Tageblatt (10/9): "The coalition is more or less in control of the situation in the capital Kaboul, although it fears attacks every day. The rest of the country is still in the control of warlords and still has a long way to go before it can be considered a successful democracy. Despite George Bush’s statements, Afghanistan is far from being peaceful, far from the respect of human rights and far from democracy. On the contrary, many Western observers, present in the country, fear revenge by the Taliban, who are becoming very influential again. Just like the war in Iraq, the Afghan war is not won yet."
NETHERLANDS: "Nevertheless, Progress In Afghanistan"
Left-of-center Trouw editorialized (10/11): "Afghanistan has seen a quarter of a century of warfare and has suffered from all the international attention diverted to Iraq.... It is not by any means certain that democracy will take hold in Afghanistan but by turning out in large numbers to vote, the people have made it clear that they derive hope from these first unsteady steps on the road to democracy. And that in itself is an enormous gain."
"Gains For Afghans"
Conservative mass-circulation De Telegraaf contended (10/11): "It is up to the Afghan people now to cash in on their newly acquired rights. Saturday saw the hopeful start of a new Afghanistan.... The Taliban can no longer count on massive support...which frees up energy to attack other, more urgent problems.... Afghanistan now has a long way to go, but the people themselves have lit a lantern to light the way to the end of the tunnel."
"Milestone In Afghanistan"
Influential independent NRC Handelsblad declared (10/11): "The state which failed, which for many years was distressed by war and suppression by Muslim fundamentalists, the country which was called the bandits' nest of the world--Afghanistan--went to the polls to elect a president under relatively peaceful circumstances.... It is a hopeful sign that the elections went smoothly. In the first place this is because of the security measures taken in which NATO was involved as well.... Hamid Karzai is almost certainly the first freely elected president of Afghanistan. He deserves all support from the international community. Patience is his most important weapon. Building up a state politically and economically is not a small job. Only long-term deployment of sufficient international troops can make his presidency a success. That is by far not yet guaranteed."
"Better Commotion Over Ink Than Bombs"
Influential liberal De Volkskrant observed (10/11): "Even though there was a problem with the ink used to keep track of who had already voted, there was almost no violence.... No one ever dared to claim the elections would be perfect.... If democracy in Afghanistan is threatened by ink, and no longer by bombs, then we are making considerable progress."
PORTUGAL: "Three Elections"
Pro/US political analyst/Lusiad University political science Prof. Vasco Rato had this to say in his regular column in the center-right weekly O Independente (10/15): “While the media’s attention is focused on Iraq, the irony is that the stabilization process in Afghanistan is considerably more precarious.… The truth is that in light of what has been happening in Iraq, Afghanistan has been forgotten. The work that is necessary to do - national reconstruction - is not being done adequately.... The [recent electoral] triumph of Howard confirms that public opinion’s opposition doesn’t necessarily lead to electoral defeat. Other factors are equally important, thus there is no direct correlation between the support granted to the military intervention in Iraq and defeat at the ballot box. Conclusion: it is still premature to politically bury Tony Blair and George Bush."
"The Afghan Vote"
Influential moderate-left Público Deputy Director José Manuel Fernandes observed (10/13): “For the first time in five thousand years of history, the [Afghan] people...could vote in a way that the UN considered, in general terms, fair and free. As a first election, it might not have developed in the best way, despite the combined efforts of the UN, NATO and the U.S. On the voting day itself 15 candidates threatened to boycott.... Currently, in a demonstration of rigor, there is an international investigation going on to verify if the accusations of electoral fraud make any sense and the counting of votes is interrupted, but this fact reinforces the legitimacy of the electoral act--which should gladden all the defenders of democracy and freedom and all who stood beside the military intervention initiated a few weeks after September 11. There is, however, an enormous evolution."
SPAIN: "Victory, With or Without Ink"
Left-of-center El País wrote (10/11): "Afghanistan runs the risk of becoming a real drug-dealer state. The country is still far from normal. It is difficult to predict when it will become so.... A good part of the forces of the ISAF will return home after the election, including half of the Spanish forces. This may be a hasty action, because the country will still need foreign protection for a long time. To start with, during the legislative election next year."
"Afghanistan, Year Zero"
Conservative ABC stated (10/11): "The main reason that this democratic process has been started has been to give an Afghan leader the vote of confidence and legitimacy that all those who, in one way or another, have ruled the country previously have lacked. It is not good that the first one to win in the polls has to suffer the stigma of having appropriated victory through irregularities, but it would not be good either if the shadow of a doubt had been cast by irresponsible leaders who, seeing themselves defeated, had not been able to measure up to the historical engagement of their country. The UN now has to work with this situation, taking into account that its real mission is to convince Afghan citizens that democracy is the only path, and that it has rules and mechanisms to solve problems peacefully. Last Saturday, Afghanistan should have faced up to its year zero."
SWEDEN: "An Important Step For Afghanistan"
Independent, liberal Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter editorialized (10/12): "When South Africa held its first free elections after the apartheid oppression, people stood in line patiently awaiting their chance to use their recently gained voting rights.... The pictures filed of the Afghan presidential election were equally powerful. They showed the world the strong desire (among Afghans) to live in a free society.... Nobody should imagine that Afghanistan has taken the step overnight from chaos to stability. The problems are many, deep, and well known.... Massive international assistance will be needed for a long time. If Afghanistan once again is left in the lurch, there is a risk that the country will relapse into its old destructive structures.... There is belief in the future (among the Afghans). After the fall of Taliban three million Afghans have returned home. And when they were given a chance to vote, they took it.... The widespread misgivings (that the elections might worsen an already unstable situation) come to naught. This is the greatest success. The Afghans managed to take an important step on the path towards normality.”
TURKEY: "What Type of Democracy?”
Sami Kohen remarked in the mass appeal Milliyet (10/15): “The Afghanistan election is over. Iraq is preparing for a general election process for the first time in the post-Saddam era. Saudi Arabia is also going to hold a local election for the first time. These are nice events, yet to what extent can we possibly call them democratic? The fact of the matter is that none of the three examples bears any resemblance to Western-type democracies. Yet we should take into account the fact that none of these countries has any democratic tradition, democratic institution, or a culture of democracy. Elections are taking place either for the first time or in the midst of chaos and anarchy. Thus it is easy to be cynical regarding the elections in these countries. … Given the circumstances, it would be too much to expect a Western-style democratic outcome and election process overnight in Iraq, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. The most important gain is that these nations are on their way towards democracy. This might be a rocky and thorny road. But their determination and will for democracy does matter.”
"Afghanistan And Women"
Social democrat opinion maker Cumhuriyet remarked (10/11): “The whole world watched the tragic situation of Afghan women completely veiled while the country went through an election process under occupation. The visual shots, particularly of Afghan women, should be a reason for shame for the Islamic world. It was as though these visuals were coming from the dark ages.... The election in Afghanistan is nothing but a pathetic drama. The election is part of the U.S. plan to establish hegemony in the Asian continent.”
Melih Asik remarked in mass-appeal Milliyet (10/14): “The Afghanistan election was like a photo exhibit, particularly regarding completely veiled women voters at the ballots. Such images were presented as a proof of the liberation of Afghan women. In fact, the pictures were no different from the Taliban era. Foreigners who were in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation still remember that Afghan women at that time did not even wear headscarves, yet alone the 'burka.' The U.S. helped develop the Taliban against Russia, which led Afghanistan to a complete fundamentalist order. Today the Taliban is gone, but the religious fundamentalist system is still in place. This is because that is U.S.’ desire. And the U.S. wants a moderate version of it for Turkey as well.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Election Culture"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina noted (10/11): "President Bush can temporarily celebrate a victory for his success in bringing an election to Afghanistan; however, he will not be able to celebrate victory in his own presidential election unless he succeeds in having an election in Iraq. This of course does not mean that Washington’s goal was to spread democracy in the two countries and expand the base of public participation; Washington is simply seeking an election, and not necessarily a democracy, as people in the U.S. know it. Otherwise, the U.S. would accept an election outcome that could give someone like Moqtada Seder the leadership in Iraq!.... Elections reflect people’s opinion at a specific moment towards someone, or something. But an election is only one way to achieve democracy. Accepting the outcome of an election, and agreeing to meet and have a dialogue with the winner is another story all together."
JORDAN: "Empowered And Encouraging"
The elite, English-language Jordan Times declared (10/11): "The news out of Afghanistan is good. It is testimony to the human spirit. It is a statement that demonstrates that people want and need to be heard. And it illustrates that expressing confidence in the citizenry reaps great benefits. By all accounts, and despite few unfortunate occurrences, Saturday's first-ever presidential election in Afghanistan revealed that the country's citizens braved all threats and stood up to crush those who were bent on ruining this important day. They did so by showing up in the thousands to polling stations.... The example of the determination of the Afghan people has given rise to hope. Hope that the people of Iraq can step forward in the same manner and put off whatever threat the insurgents and terrorists promise.... For people who have never had the opportunity to vote because of oppressive regimes governing them, the sense of achievement and pride that they are finally being counted as citizens with rights, privileges and national duty is enormous. It is something that many of us have come to take for granted."
LEBANON: "Afghanistan's Historic Elections Only Indicate A Stony Road Ahead"
The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (10/11): "Afghans went to the polling booths for the first time ever on Saturday to elect a president. Although U.S.- and Pakistan-blessed interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a certain prospect to sweep into popularly elected power, the election process is a historic event indeed and quite an impressive one since it also comes on the heels of more than 20 years of war. From the traditional gathering of tribal elders and notables known as a loya jirga to participatory democracy is a giant stride. Can it stick? The simple answer is that the jury is still out--it is too early to draw conclusions much beyond the immediate future. The road to democracy will be a stony one.... The ongoing menace represented by Taliban guerrillas and al-Qaida will see to that, even though they did not make good their threats to disrupt Saturday's polls. This was no doubt principally due to the deployment of a 100,000-strong security force, including some 27,000 foreign soldiers.... There is a lot of work to do in Afghanistan before 'democracy' takes root--the global community of nations can only hope this work is undertaken honestly and tenaciously."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: “One Poll Does Not A Democracy Make”
The liberal Melbourne Age (10/15) editorialized: “Australia had a hand in liberating Afghanistan, but must do more to help finish the job. Australians and Afghans both voted on October 9, as Prime Minister John Howard noted in his victory speech, but this week's aftermath shows the two groups of voters inhabit very different worlds. Any electoral uncertainty in Australia pales into insignificance by comparison with Afghanistan, where the issue is whether the vote will lead to stable democratic government.... This was already the most precarious of polls, held in an atmosphere of chaos and intimidation.... Australia can claim a share of credit for what has been achieved, but should reconsider its refusal of Afghanistan's mid-year request for more direct assistance. Australia was "prepared to take a stand for democracy and to take a stand against terrorism" in Afghanistan, as Mr Howard said. But when he withdrew troops two years ago, the job was far from done and that is still the case.”
"Democracy Test In Afghanistan"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald asserted (10/11): "More than 10 million Afghan voters made history when they pressed their inked thumbs on to ballot papers in their nation's first democratic presidential election. Beyond that, little is yet clear.... International observers concluded that the voting was, generally, 'fairly democratic'--itself an achievement of considerable note. Afghanistan's recent history is a tragic chronicle of military despotism, invasion, foreign occupation, banditry and civil war. Afghanistan had no democratic tradition to draw on following the U.S.-led invasion of late 2001 which toppled the extremist Islamic Taliban regime. The ink fiasco is a telling reminder of just how unfamiliar the democratic process remains.... Afghanistan's elections were more than a test for the nation. Afghanistan's success, or failure, is a broader test of military intervention. Can the removal by foreign force of a despotic regime really lay the foundations for a new, democratic society? Will a new model emerge bringing together Islamic law and the civil and political institutions which define a modern democracy?... The real test of the weekend's elections lies ahead in the international community's willingness to stay a long, hard course.”
CHINA: "Afghan Democracy Takes Its First Teetering Steps"
Fang Zhou wrote in the official English-language China Daily (10/14): “Having endured nearly three long dark years, only marginally better than the preceding period under the rule of the ousted Taliban regime, Afghanistan is now embracing a nascent democracy.... Since the U.S. launched a military assault in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban regime, accused of providing bases and sanctuary to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 terror attack on the U.S., the Central Asian country has been in turmoil. Ongoing terrorist violence following the intervention put the country's post-Taliban democratic process, which Washington promised and mapped, in doubt. That the planned elections finally took place against a backdrop of terrorist threats, Afghanistan's very difficult terrain, adverse weather conditions in several provinces and other severe challenges, is unquestionably a landmark event, worthy of celebration. The massive turn-out by voters and their courage and enthusiasm to cast their votes augur well for the country. However, the presidential election does not mean that democracy has taken deep root in Afghanistan.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Doubts About Afghan Poll Must Be Cleared Up"
The independent, English-language South China Morning Post said (10/10): "The enthusiasm shown by voters in yesterday's historic elections in Afghanistan has provided the world with a strong and moving symbol of hope for this troubled nation. Unfortunately, their courage has not been sufficient to prevent the unprecedented presidential polls running into problems. The votes have not yet been counted. But the legitimacy of the result is already in question. The officials described the problem as small, unintentional and quickly resolved. We hope that is the case. It is possible that the opposition candidates have latched on it in a bid to scupper an election which they knew Mr. Karzai was hotly tipped to win. But efforts must now be made to establish if this really is the position, or whether there is any evidence of a deliberate attempt to rig the election. Results are not expected for around two weeks. By then, it is to be hoped that the doubts will have been cleared up, for in several important respects, the election went surprisingly well. This election was held against extraordinary odds. It was always going to encounter problems. The fraud claims must be resolved. If the election result is going to usher in a new era for Afghanistan, it has to be credible. It is to be hoped the problem will not prevent the polls being regarded as a relative success. That is the least the Afghan people deserve."
INDONESIA: "Afghanistan, Portrait Of Failure Of Democratization U.S.–Style"
Nanang Pamuji held in independent Suara Pembaruan (10/13): "The Afghanistan elections basically served only as a gate to a long process of democratization. If the new government established from the elections is able to function well and consolidate its administration system, the democratization process will be smooth. Theoretically, a failure in the consolidation would fatally backfire on democratization. The failure of the regime the people have elected would prompt a movement that leads to a new government that is not democratic.... Unfortunately, the political conditions that would lead to a political wish [for a full democratic society] practically do not exist in Afghanistan. Together with Iraq, will the development in Afghanistan also constitute a failure of the democratization process that the U.S. is exporting?”
"A Major Breakthrough, Afghanistan Elections Relatively Safe"
Leading independent Kompas held (10/12): "The October 9 elections by any means were seen as a major breakthrough although they were not free from controversies. With all their limitations, the elections were held to select the first president in the long history of the Afghan people and their country.... The quality of the elections is an important factor, but in the context of Afghanistan, the elections in themselves constituted a relieving achievement. It would be too high-sounding to expect a high standard for the elections because democratic infrastructures have not been established [there].... Had the elections been delayed again for security reasons and logistical problems, the people’s trust in the elections as one of the democratic instruments could have weakened. After all, it was the first elections that would determine the next political development in Afghanistan.”
THAILAND: "Keep Focus On Afghanistan"
The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post read (10/18): “The relative smoothness of the election, in spite of widespread predictions of violence by recalcitrant Taliban elements and other assorted warlords, is cause for celebration not only in Afghanistan but throughout the world.... No one is happier than United States President George Bush, who certainly deserves credit for acting decisively in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks to remove the al-Qaida-enabling Taliban from power in Afghanistan. The success of the Afghanistan election should not be used to justify the subsequent decisions of the U.S. president in the 'war on terror' however, and it can only be hoped that the election will encourage Mr. Bush and other world leaders to re-double their efforts in Afghanistan, rather than be satisfied with the current pace of reconstruction and advancement of human rights and democratization.... Hamid Karzai was inevitably cast as a puppet of the U.S. government because he was in fact picked by the U.S. government before he was picked at the controversial June 2002 Loya Jirga to lead the interim government. It seems to have been a pretty good choice, however, and one that the Afghan people apparently endorsed last weekend. He will need more, not less, help in the future from the international community, particularly in assuring that the parliamentary elections which are scheduled to be held next year are fair and violence-free.”
"Afghanistan Takes New Road"
The moderately conservative, English-language Bangkok Post held (10/12): "The voter turn-out and the Taliban's weaker hand show that democracy has a chance to take root in the country decades after being engulfed in turmoil.... Insufficient support from the international community was partly blamed for the fraud claims which initially held up the election results.... Though voter turn-out showed a strong desire for self-determination, the situation is far from ideal. After the ouster of the Taliban, poppy growing resumed in a big way and there are estimates the country is producing 75% of the world's opium. Large chunks of the country remain under the control of warlords. Democracy has taken root but needs more time to fully flower.”
SOUTH AFRICA: "Victory Doesn't Mean Legitimacy"
The liberal Star asserted (10/13): "Indications are that Karzai is heading for a landslide victory, but that does not necessarily mean legitimacy.... He was picked to head a transitional government after the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-led forces.... This is the first direct presidential election in Afghanistan since independence.... But it is important for more than just the people of that country. President...Bush...has claimed the Afghan vote as a foreign policy success and has expressed the hope it will be repeated in war-torn Iraq. But that is a moot point. There are more than 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and some 130,000 in Iraq. That doesn’t sound like democracy; it sounds like occupation.... In both Afghanistan and Iraq, democracy is a long way off and the analogy with Vietnam is menacingly real.”
NIGERIA: "Chance For Growth And Development"
Lagos-based independent Comet editorialized (10/18): "It is our opinion that the election which took place in Afghanistan is a right step in the right direction and therefore should not be cancelled. But it does not solve the fundamental problems in the country.... Therefore, if eventually the election is won by the present interim president, then, he should within the shortest time possible put in place a national conference to discuss the manifold problems confronting the country with the aim of finding a common ground as well as looking for a suitable role for those that lose out. It should not be a winner-takes-all situation; rather the spirit of give and take should be the guiding principle. In the new Afghanistan, respect of the rule of law, protection of civil rights as well as the creation of successful and progressive society that respect the fundamental human rights should be the preoccupation of all. All efforts should be geared toward the systematic growth and development of the country so that it does not relapse into a banana republic.... Afghanistan should be guided back into the comity of civilized countries and be part of humanity."
CANADA: "Afghans Take Step To Democracy"
Richard Gwynn opined in the liberal Toronto Star (10/13): "In explaining why he was withdrawing his demand that the election results be annulled Yunus Qanuni, a leading candidate for the presidency of Afghanistan, said: 'We want the feelings of the people to be appreciated'.... He was signaling that the opinion of ordinary people now matters in Afghanistan.... An important watershed has been crossed in Afghanistan. For the first time in all its centuries, a democratic election (more or less democratic, anyway) has been held in a country that is one of the poorest, most backward and most isolated in the world and one that, until three years ago, was controlled entirely by the Islamic fundamentalists of the Taliban.... In itself, Afghanistan is of marginal importance. But what has just happened there may turn out to be a watershed event of profound importance, for the entire region and, perhaps, the world."
"Afghans Vote For Democracy"
The conservative Gazette editorialized (10/13): "Despite all the odds - including threats of violence and a deeply undemocratic political history - Afghans turned out in what the United Nations calls 'massive' numbers Friday to choose a president. There could be no more stirring endorsement of the universal power of democracy. It is worth remembering that many Afghans are illiterate.... About 42 per cent of those who registered were women - an eye-popping figure in a country ruled until recently by the medievally repressive Taliban. So much for the perverse lie that Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, are reluctant to accept democracy. By all accounts, millions of Afghans took real pride in the election....[Hamid Karzai's] opponents are bitter because the president convinced certain other candidates to drop out with promises of cabinet employment. But this is hardly unknown in Western democracies....More significant are charges of voting fraud....Fraud allegations are already dissipating, and international observers have called the elections substantially fair."
"A Pencil Problem"
Editorialist Mario Roy opined in the centrist La Presse (10/12): "There was a problem with pencils! Not hundreds of deaths as was almost expected. Nor an epidemic of hostage taking. Nor a series of beheadings. Nor car bombs in the center of Kabul or missiles launched on voting venues. No: a problem with pencils... If Afghanistan had been awash in blood on Saturday, which was a real possibility, this would have been very damaging to the President of the United States, already bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire. More importantly, Americans are not the only ones who matter in this world. Could it be that the Afghans, most of whom -though not all of course-have seen their situation improve in the last 30 months, also long for some peace?... Nestled in the comfort of rich societies and the political indifference, which often typifies them, we tend to underestimate the importance of a victory, which as very partial as it is remains nevertheless real, as was the case Saturday in Afghanistan. Voting in Montreal requires no courage; voting in Afghanistan, especially outside the capital, and even more, for women, required a lot. We will know in a few days how many citizens of that country did. And we will then be able to measure how far things have progressed from the not so distant past where the program in the Kabul stadium consisted of gruesome executions."
ARGENTINA: "Voting Under Fire in Afghanistan"
An editorial in leading Clarin reads (10/18): "The recent elections in Afghanistan are but a dim light amid a dark regional scenario, that's encouraging for the moderate sectors, civilian societies and leaders of those countries. With a large part of the territory out of the control of the central power and in the hands of the so-called 'warlords', the fact that 10 million Afghans were able to vote to choose their government must be highlighted. The international community is now responsible for endorsing the reconstruction of the national states with military and security forces capable of acting in a framework of legal order, without which democracy is impossible. The recent elections in Afghanistan are but a small step forward in a framework of violence which the U.S. was unable to reverse."
BRAZIL: "Afghan Candidates...Are Questioning The Legality Of The Elections."
Center-right O Globo observed (10/13): "Suspicions of fraud hover over the first election in the history of Afghanistan and the candidates, unsatisfied with what they have seen and heard, are questioning the election’s legality. It’s natural and even inevitable that it be so: free, clean polls are at the same time the part of a democratic system and one of its highest conquests. It's enough to see the concern on the part of Bush’s adversaries regarding the honesty of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, especially in Florida.”
MEXICO: "Elections In Afganistan And Iraq"
Eugenio Anguiano said in nationalist El Universal (10/13): "The elections of last Sunday in Afghanistan and the ones that might take place in Iraq next January 2005, imply much more than the electoral game that is in vogue in the U.S.... The real problem lies in the effectiveness of national governments in Afghanistan and Iraq, what they could accomplish without the presence of foreign troops. For the EU, Pakistan, and other countries, the failure of those governments, the ones that resulted from elections by the people, would mean a return to fundamentalist tyrannies, instability in the region and more global terrorism."
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