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U.N. calls for transparent Afghan elections

July 16, 2009 at 5:44 PM

UNITED NATIONS, July 16 (UPI) -- The United Nations is urging Afghanistan to conduct a transparent voting process in August in its first attempt at independent democratic elections.

Afghanistan is scheduled for presidential and provincial council elections in August, taking the lead from the international community in overseeing the process.

Kai Eide, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan, said in June the election was about strengthening public confidence in democratic governance more than choosing specific leaders.

"It is not only about who will lead, but about the legitimacy of leadership," he said.

The U.N. Security Council in its latest meeting stressed the importance of a free and transparent election in August in order to lend credibility to the results.

"The Security Council welcomes the Afghan-led preparation for the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections and stresses the importance that the elections be free, fair, transparent, credible, secure and inclusive," a statement by the Ugandan presidency of the Security Council read.

The United Nations is training some 35,000 police officers to help secure the elections while providing guidelines for national and international elections officials.

Afghans head to the polls Aug. 20. Incumbent President Hamid Karzai faces more than 40 challengers, among them former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

More than 3,000 candidates, meanwhile, are competing for seats on the provincial councils.

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