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Afghanistan: UN says extremists can't stop polls

Afghanistan: UN envoy says extremists cannot stop polls or new political culture

Hailing the “unmistakable confirmation” that a new political culture is emerging in Afghanistan, which holds landmark legislative elections tomorrow, the senior United Nations envoy to the country said today he was confident that extremists have failed in their attempts to derail the polls.

Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told reporters today at a press briefing in Kabul that despite a series of deadly attacks during the election campaign, “Afghans will not let anything stop them from participating.”

More than 10 million Afghans are registered to vote in tomorrow’s elections for a national parliament and provincial councils, which are being staged four years after the demise of the notorious Taliban regime and a quarter century of war and misrule in the Asian country.

Mr. Arnault said he has witnessed signs of increasing pluralism, greater freedom of assembly and opinion, and the involvement of women – whose rights were severely curtailed under the Taliban – as both candidates and voters.

“A sense that the legacy of the rule of the gun can be resisted is now taking root,” he said, noting that Afghans have already successfully elected a transitional authority, adopted a national constitution and then elected a president.

But he also expressed outrage at the violence by extremists in the election campaign, including deadly attacks last night on police and security forces. Three police officers were killed when they were ambushed during a patrol just south of Kabul.

Mr. Arnault said reconstruction and security continues to lag behind the political advances being made, and the international community must do more to ensure they keep pace with Afghanistan’s increasing democratization.

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