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Successful elections in Afghanistan.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER FA117 19 September 2005

SUCCESSFUL ELECTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

I congratulate the people of Afghanistan on their determination to hold successful elections for the National Assembly Lower House and Provincial Councils. The elections on 18 September 2005 were the first free legislative elections to be held in Afghanistan after a quarter of a century of armed conflict.

The enthusiasm of many voters, including some who queued at polling stations before they opened, is a clear demonstration by the people of Afghanistan of their desire to determine their own future. Some polling stations - including in the Taliban homeland of Kandahar - reported a high proportion of women voters.

I am encouraged that the elections were not disrupted by those who seek to frustrate the transition of Afghanistan to a viable democratic state.

I commend Pakistan’s efforts to increase security along the border prior to the elections and acknowledge that Afghanistan still faces many challenges and will require support from the international community for some time to come.

Australia’s commitment of a Special Forces Task Group assisted in providing a more secure environment for Afghans to exercise their democratic right to vote.

I am pleased to announce an additional $3 million for election-related assistance for Afghanistan, bringing Australia’s total support for the 2005 elections to $5 million. Our assistance includes building capacity to manage the successful transition to a democratic government. This comes on top of Australia’s contribution of $4 million for the Presidential elections in 2004.

Australia has committed more than $110 million in development assistance to Afghanistan since September 2001, making it one of Australia’s largest humanitarian efforts after East Timor, Iraq and tsunami assistance to Indonesia. Australia will provide $26 million for substantial and practical development support to Afghanistan in 2005-2006.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 0419 206 890 Chelsey Martin (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet. http://www.dfat.gov.au/