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Afghanistan: EU Election Mission Head Says Country Needs International Support

Emma Bonino The head of the EU’s electoral observation mission to Afghanistan, Emma Bonino, says the country will not be able to stand on its own feet without significant international support. She said that the parliamentary and local elections on 18 September passed relatively successfully. But, she warned, it is unclear how prepared the country is to deal with potential large-scale dissatisfaction with the results.

Strasbourg, 28 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Returning after two months in Afghanistan, Emma Bonino was at pains not to sound too pessimistic about the country’s prospects.

At a press conference on 27 September at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Bonino -- who is a member of the EU legislature -- said she has hope for the country. But, she added, only if there is continued substantial international assistance.

“Because of the regional context, because of where they come from, because of the complexity of the issue, without a strong commitment of the international community the Afghans know that they cannot do it themselves,” Bonino said.

Bonino said a debate was already under way in Europe and elsewhere as to how to continue after the current so-called Bonn process has come to an end. In 2001, international donors gathered in Bonn, Germany, agreed a framework for large-scale assistance which was to come an end with the parliamentary elections.

However, another donors’ conference is being organised for January 2006, to take place in London. The EU has already said it will continue providing substantial assistance to Afghanistan. Funding levels, however, will not become clear before the EU adopts its budget for 2007-2013.

Shortly before the elections, Bonino was quoted in an interview with the "Financial Times" as saying she despaired of the sustainability of Afghan democracy. She said parts of the country were not under the control of the government, violence and intimidation were rife before the elections, and that warlords and others with criminal backgrounds were allowed to run free.

Bonino then wrote to the "Financial Times" saying her views had been cast in a selectively negative light.

On Monday, Bonino said she is still compiling her final report. She praised the elections, saying that while the poll had not been perfect, it was a “landmark in a very difficult fragile development towards democracy.”

She said that the Afghan system for establishing and verifying electoral results is very complex and difficult to implement, and warned there could be tensions. She noted that that out of the approximately 3,000 candidates, only about 300 will find themselves elected, with many others left nursing grievances.

“Definitely, that means that 2,700 will be losers, [obviously]. Now, how and if they will accept the result of the ballot, that is something that is still under discussion, due also to the cultural [complexity] of the Afghan society,” Bonino said.

Overall, Bonino said, she does not expect final results to emerge before the end of October.

“The counting process will be quite long, and [will] then [be followed by] the preliminary [confirmation] of members [of parliament] selected. But then many [candidates] will definitely appeal [against] the results, so we will have a long period of appeals, that’s why the final results will not be known before, I imagine, before the end of October,” Bonino said.

Bonino headed a team of 140 EU observers, by far the largest international monitoring contribution to the 18 September elections.