European Union Election Observation Mission to Afghanistan

Some 120 European observers are joining thousands of Afghan observers for the forthcoming presidential and provincial council elections in Afghanistan on 20 August.

The aim is to accomplish “the most difficult observation mission…in an ongoing conflict country,” says the head of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission Phillipe Morillon.

The EU was invited to establish an Observation Mission for the upcoming elections by the Government of Afghanistan.

The Mission is mandated to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process and to observe the extent to which the election complies with international standards, as well as domestic laws.

“Our observers will be deployed on a regional basis,” said Mr Morillon who’s a former member of the European Parliament and a former French general who commanded UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.

“The security of my staff is my main concern. Our security has been assured by the Afghan Government. But we will use other resources like that of UNAMA and ISAF throughout the country if needed,” added the general.

Mr Morillon disagrees with opinion putting the legitimacy of the elections in doubt following reports that some ten districts in the country are not under the control of the Government of Afghanistan.

“These places are very low density populated areas. They cannot put the legitimacy of the election under question at all. I asked my team to measure the population density of these zones to be able to answer the question of the journalists with this regard,” he said.

In contrast with the security situation Mr Morillon is very optimistic regarding the people in Afghanistan and the traditional meetings known as shuras and jirgas that he’s seen taking place.

He thinks that the country is moving forward whilst using traditional debating methods: “Afghans are modernizing that traditional process and we are here to support them.”

The general, who seems proud of his experience in Afghanistan, said: “This is my ninth mission in this country. I appreciate the degree of democratization installed within the country.”

While the number of candidates shows “too much fragmentation” he said “it is also showing a democratic inspiration.”

The general is also optimistic for the reconciliation process. “I had two meetings last week, one after another, in my office with Mullah Rocketi (a well known former Taliban commander) and then with General Shahnawaz Tanai (a former defence minister during Dr Najibullah’s regime after the Soviets withdrew in 1989). It shows that tremendous progress was made in the direction of reconciliation in this country.”

Finally the top European Observer emphasizes women rights: “Just seeing only two female candidates, shows that Afghans need to do more progress with this regard.” He adds: “I am happy with quotas imposed by the constitution which progressively will help.”

The United Nations Security Council recently welcomed the Afghan-led preparations for next month’s presidential and provincial council elections and stressed the importance of “free, fair, transparent, credible, secure and inclusive” polls.

The EU’s Observation Mission is the largest international observer mission among several other monitoring organisations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and some 8,000 Afghan observers who will be monitoring the historic polls.

By Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA

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