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UK Won’t Help Any of Afghan Candidates: Envoy

UK Won’t Help Any of Afghan Candidates

KABUL – British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Richard Stagg on Wednesday said he was certain the UK would not help any of presidential candidates vying to succeed President Karzai in next month’s elections. “We have no preferred result,” Stagg said in his article on the Afghan elections, calling the vote a historic movement.

“The decision about who should govern Afghanistan for the next five years is one for the Afghan people alone. Afghans are far better able than anyone else to choose the right person to be their president,” he wrote. The British ambassador said it was the first time that an Afghan president had agreed to stand aside as the Constitution requires, and let the people choose his successor.

“For Britain’s part, I can say with authority that we will not help any candidates.” He, however, said that the only legitimate role for the international community was to help support a good election. “In Britain’s case, we are working to do just that. We are, for example, spending over $30m, through the United Nations, to help Afghan electoral institutions to organise the voting.”

The UK envoy said they were supporting Afghan organisations to deploy impartial election observers to help combat electoral fraud and to raise awareness and the issues at stake. He said his country would also help women address problems they faced in running for provincial council seats. “Though through ISAF, our military forces stand ready to move election materials to provinces, if asked by the Afghan authorities.”

“Our aim is to enable the Afghan people to have their say. We are not funding any campaign. Nor will we endorse any candidate,” he reiterated. He said seeing candidates’ posters across Kabul, and watching them debate on television makes Afghanistan feel just like any other democracy at election time, such as Britain, or India.

Some people worried they might not be able to vote or there would be cheating or interference, he said. “Of course, any election here brings challenges but his strong impression is that those involved – the election authorities, the government, the international community – have learned the necessary lessons from the past.”

Over 3.5 million new voter cards have been issued, a third of them to women. The security forces and election authorities are working closely together to ensure that polling centres will be open on Election Day, he noted. He said it would be much harder to commit fraud than in any previous election and the new ballot papers should be impossible to copy as they will be stored securely, and tracked every time they were moved. “There will be thousands of independent observers at polling stations across the country,” he added. (Pajhwok)

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