Press Releases

    13 October 2004

    Democracy Firmly Taking Root, Secretary-General Tells Afghan People in Message Following Their Country’s First Presidential Election

    NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- The following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the people of Afghanistan on the occasion of their first presidential election as delivered by Special Representative to the Secretary-General Jean Arnault today, 12 October 2004:

    I warmly congratulate Afghan women and men on the occasion of their presidential election held on 9 October.  Your impressive participation against the backdrop of threats of violence by extremists; your long walks to go to the polling stations, sometimes in bad weather; your enthusiasm in casting your ballot for the first time in your life, are a heart-warming demonstration that, nearly three years after the signing of the Bonn agreement, democracy is firmly taking root in Afghanistan. 

    This achievement was completed by the participation of 850,000 Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan -- the largest out-of-country election ever -- another sign of the determination of Afghans everywhere to take charge of the affairs of their country.

    The United Nations and all your many friends in the international community are proud to have had the opportunity to support you in this exercise.

    Congratulations are also in order for your national security forces.  They have been able to pre-empt or repel those who had unsuccessfully tried to derail voter registration and were committed to impede this election.  We thank international forces for having lent very effective support to this effort.

    This historic day would not have been possible without the dedication of those 120,000 Afghan men and women who served as polling staff.  They bore the burden of the effort on 9 October; today they deserve our praise and gratitude.

    As is the case in many elections, irregularities have been alleged, by candidates and by ordinary voters.  Rest assured that they will be fully clarified.  And that the result of these enquiries will help make electoral procedures more robust and reliable for your local and parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2005.  Afghan and international observer organizations will certainly be of assistance in this effort.  We thank them in advance for their contribution.

    In concluding, let me congratulate once again the people of Afghanistan, for their patience, resilience and civic maturity.  The United Nations is ready and willing to remain by your side as you continue your journey towards a vigorous democracy.

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