On October 9, 2004, the Afghan people will make history when they
hold their nation's first direct presidential election. Parliamentary
elections are scheduled for next spring.
"The Afghan people are showing extraordinary courage under
difficult conditions... They've adopted a constitution that protects
the rights of all, while honoring their nation's most cherished
traditions. More than 10 million Afghan citizens -- over 4 million of
them women -- are now registered to vote ... To any who still would
question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the
Afghan people are giving their answer."
-- President Bush, September 21, 2004
The Election Process: Key Facts
According to the United Nations, more than 10 million Afghans have
registered to vote in spite of uncertain security and attacks on some
polling sites and election workers. 41 percent of registered voters are
The government of Afghanistan and the United Nations have formed
the Joint Electoral Management Body
(JEMB) to supervise the election and ensure a transparent and
credible election process.
18 presidential candidates, including one female candidate, are
running in the election.
Polling will take place at some 22,000 polling stations throughout
Afghanistan, as well as in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran.
There are some 600,000 eligible voters in Iran and more than 600,000 in
*To ensure that no one votes more than once, each voter's right
index finger will be stained with a long-lasting ink before the voter
leaves the polling station. In addition, each voter's registration card
number will be recorded and his or her card punched.
International monitors and support teams from the European Union,
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United
States, and the Asia Network for Free Elections will be in Afghanistan
for the election, joining Afghan observers.
In order to ensure that ballots are counted in a transparent
manner, the media will have access to the eight tabulation centers.
Because of the ruggedness of the terrain, the remoteness of many towns
and villages in the country, and the need to ensure transparent and
credible counting of the paper ballots, it could take up to four weeks
to tabulate the official results.
A run-off election would take place between the two top candidates
if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. If necessary, a
run-off would be held two weeks after the official results are
The United States has worked closely with Afghan leaders and
international partners in preparing for this historic election. The
United States to date has provided $78 million (40 percent) of the $198
million needed to prepare for and carry out the election.
The Long March to Elections
Afghan representatives from all over the country came together in
a Loya Jirga (or grand council) in 2003 to choose an interim government
and establish procedures for adopting a constitution.
A draft constitution was distributed throughout Afghanistan in
2003, and Afghans from all walks of life joined the official
In the autumn of 2003, meetings were held at the local and
provincial leve ls to select delegates for the Loya Jirga meeting in
December to debate the draft and adopt the new constitution. More than
90 of the 500 delegates participating in the Loya Jirga were women.
The Constitutional Loya Jirga convened on December 14, 2003, and
after three weeks of debate, negotiation, and compromise, it approved a
new constitution on January 4, 2004.
The constitution establishes a democracy with an executive branch
and a bicameral legislature. The lower house will be chosen by direct
elections, while the upper house will be evenly divided between
representatives selected by provisional councils, representatives
selected by district councils, and presidential appointees. Checks and
balances exist between the branches of government.
President Karzai signed a new electoral law on May 25, 2004.