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UN Congratulates Afghans’ Patience Civic Maturity

Hailing Afghans’ Patience, Civic Maturity, Annan Says Poll Probe Will Bring Gains

Congratulating Afghans on “their patience, resilience and civic maturity” during the presidential election process that culminated in Saturday’s vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the inquiry into reported polling irregularities will ensure that the procedures are more reliable for local and parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

In an address to the Afghan people from Beijing, where he is on the first leg of an international trip, Mr. Annan said they had shown a welcome determination “to take charge of the affairs of their country.”

Apart from the millions of Afghans who voted in their homeland, about 850,000 refugees living in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran also voted – the largest out-of-country election ever, the Secretary-General said.

“Your impressive participation against the backdrop of threats of violence by extremists; your long walks to go to the polling stations, sometimes in bad weather; your enthusiasm in casting your ballot for the first time in your life, are a heart-warming demonstration that, nearly three years after the signing of the Bonn agreement, democracy is firmly taking root in Afghanistan,” he said.

The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), the UN-Afghan body charged with overseeing the country’s electoral process, has set up an independent probe to investigate reports of polling irregularities and difficulties on Saturday.

Mr. Annan told Afghans that the alleged irregularities “will be fully clarified” by the inquiry and added it “will help make electoral procedures more robust and reliable” for when Afghans vote in local and parliamentary polls next year.

The Secretary-General praised Afghanistan’s security forces for helping to pre-empt or repel attacks by extremist groups trying to derail the election process, and the supportive role played by international security forces. He also thanked the 120,000 people who served as polling staff on Saturday.

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