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Afghanistan: 1st Free Presidential Election Begins

Afghanistan's First Free Presidential Election Campaign Kicks Off

The campaign for Afghanistan's first open presidential election in its history formally began today, with 18 candidates given the next 30 days to convince voters they should be chosen for the post, the joint United Nations-Afghan body handling the polling announced.

The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) issued a statement declaring that campaigning began at 7am today and ends on the morning of 7 October, two days before more than 10.5 million registered Afghan voters - including at least 4.3 million women - are scheduled to cast their ballots.

"The political campaign must be based on the principles of freedom of expression and conducted in a climate free of intimidation, which allows for democratic debates and discussion," the statement read.

JEMB said it has established a media commission to monitor reporting during the election campaign and to probe possible breaches of the media code of conduct, which calls for fair and balanced reporting and promotes retractions and rights to reply.

The presidential election is Afghanistan's first poll since the UN Assistance Mission to the country (UNAMA) was set up to help reconstruction following a quarter century of war and Taliban misrule. National and local parliamentary elections are scheduled for next April.

UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, briefing reporters on Sunday in Kabul, said there are also regulations in place requiring free and equal access to candidates on state-run media.

He also said the budget to run the elections now has more than $58 million, thanks to contributions from the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and Germany.

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