It is vital for Afghanistan, and for its partners, that the country consolidate the important gains made over the past decade and move ahead with its democratic transition, the deputy United Nations chief said today, emphasizing in particular the need for free and fair elections next year.
Next year will see Afghanistan hold a presidential election, as well as the withdrawal of the majority of allied international military forces, with national forces assuming full responsibility for security throughout the country.
“It is extremely important for the people of Afghanistan, but also for the United Nations and the many nations that have contributed to this transition, that the country does not fall back into the nightmares of war, the extreme poverty and violations of human rights that we saw earlier,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a news conference at UN Headquarters.
Briefing reporters on his five-day visit to Afghanistan, from which he returned earlier today, Mr. Eliasson said he conveyed to those that he met that the intention of the UN is to continue its partnership with Afghanistan, provided that this is the wish of the Government and the Afghan people.
“We will provide our support, where and when needed, following modalities that respect Afghan leadership and sovereignty,” he stated.
Mr. Eliasson said that next year's presidential election, slated for 5 April, will be a 'make or break' event, stressing the need for the polls to be free and fair, and enjoy wide participation. In that regard, he noted that it is vital that the Afghan parliament pass two pieces of legislation related to the future elections before the body concludes its current session in mid-July.
The first of the two laws defines the structure and responsibilities of the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC), while the second concerns the main electoral law governing all future Afghan elections.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, also emphasized the importance of the manner in which next year's presidential elections, as well as subsequent provincial council and parliamentary polls, are held.
“These elections – the only legitimate way of democratic transfer of authority as prescribed by the Constitution – will be the surest basis of internal legitimacy and future stability and are the necessary foundation for continued extraordinary international support to Afghanistan's transition and transformation,” he said in remarks today to a meeting of senior officials from Governments and international organizations in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“The international community, including the UN, is resolved to continue supporting credible, inclusive and transparent elections held under Afghan leadership. We must remember, however, that the ultimate test for the elections is that the Afghan people and political forces accept their result as credible,” said Mr. Kubiš, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
He added that the polls should be based on mutually agreed rules of the game based on law, on sound technical preparations, credible institutions and credible election processes before and after the elections under the close scrutiny of domestic and international observers.
“There are expectations from both sides,” noted Mr. Eliasson, who met with a wide range of governmental and non-governmental representatives during his visit, which also included a stop in the southern province of Kandahar. There are expectations from the Government that its international partners live up to their pledges of support and assistance, he said.
“But also, there are great expectations on the side of the international community that in fact Afghanistan lives up to its own obligations, primarily to have the election take place as planned in April next year, and to pass the electoral laws,” he added.