Afghanistan: Voter Registration to Begin by September
Afghanistan plans to begin voter registration for the 2004 elections this September. However, Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned the United Nations that with no recent electoral experience and after two decades of warfare, the country could not accomplish this task alone, according to the Associated Press. Registration is expected to cost around $80 million and last until March 2004, AP reports.
Security remains a concern in Afghanistan. After Karzai threatened to step down, he secured an agreement between various warlords controlling parts of Afghanistan to stop fighting among themselves and to obey national laws, according to the Washington Post. However, at a recent United Nations Security Council briefing, Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi called the security situation in Afghanistan "unstable and insufficient." In addition, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder last week called for the expansion of international peacekeeping forces beyond the capitol city of Kabul. Currently, Germany leads the peacekeeping force of some 4,500 troops.
"Expansion of international peacekeeping troops is necessary to make sure voter registration and the electoral process themselves are fair and democratic, especially for women," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "Last year, Congress passed the Afghan Freedom Support Act authorizing increased reconstruction financing and peace troop expansion. President Bush signed it into law. But where is the financing and where are the peace troops?" she wrote in a New York Timesletter to the editor. "Women and girls are the first victims: warlords in some areas are placing Taliban-like restrictions on women, and more than a dozen girls' schools have suffered violent attacks by fundamentalists."
The Feminist Majority continues leading the call for ISAF expansion, increased reconstruction funding, and for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.