Statement by Minister Cannon on Parliamentary Elections in Afghanistan

(No. 295 - September 16, 2010 - 11:45 a.m. ET) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement on the upcoming 2010 Afghan parliamentary elections:

“Today marks the end of the campaign period for the 2010 elections to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the National Assembly in Afghanistan. On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to congratulate the candidates who campaigned and are actively taking part in Afghanistan’s electoral process.

“On September 18, millions of Afghan men and women will exercise their democratic rights by participating in these historic elections—the first Afghan-led parliamentary elections since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

“The elections are taking place under difficult circumstances and amid ongoing security challenges in parts of the country. Despite this, Afghans are courageously organizing and mobilizing to campaign and vote in the elections. We encourage all Afghans to take part in this important process in a peaceful and constructive manner, and to support a secure and transparent electoral process. Afghans deserve to have their voices heard in this democratic process.

“The parliamentary elections are an important step in the country’s ongoing democratic transition, as the Government of Afghanistan continues to strengthen good governance and democratic institutions. Canada and its international partners continue to support Afghan-led efforts to build on lessons learned in the 2009 elections.

“Canada is engaged in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected Afghan government, and as part of a UN-mandated, NATO-led mission. Canada’s continuing objective is to help Afghans build a stable and secure country based on the fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

For more information, please visit Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan.

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Catherine Loubier
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874

Backgrounder - 2010 Wolesi Jirga elections

Afghanistan will hold elections for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the Afghan National Assembly) on September 18, 2010. These are the second parliamentary elections in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but the first to be led by Afghans. Afghanistan held its first parliamentary elections in 2005 in a joint Afghan-UN effort. The 2010 elections are organized by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC), with the support of the international community.

Canada and its international partners continue to support Afghanistan’s efforts to build on lessons learned in the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections. For example, the IEC has sought to strengthen anti-fraud measures, including by bolstering ballot tracking systems and improving counting and tallying systems.

There are currently 406 female and 2,105 male candidates, including 50 candidates in Kandahar, 10 of whom are women. They are competing for 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, including 64 that are guaranteed for women under the Afghan constitution and ten for the nomadic Kuchi community.

The IEC has announced plans to open 5,897 polling centres throughout the country, including 209 in Kandahar, contingent on security conditions on polling day.

Security on polling day is the primary responsibility of the Afghan national security forces. The Afghan National Police will play the lead role in providing security, supported by the Afghan National Army where necessary. The International Security Assistance Force will maintain a broad presence.

As one of its six priorities in Afghanistan, Canada is helping to advance Afghanistan’s capacity for democratic governance by contributing to effective, accountable public institutions and electoral processes. Canada supports Afghan-led efforts to hold elections that are perceived as credible by Afghans.

Canada is contributing $25 million over three years to the United Nations Development Programme’s Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow project to support the core functions of the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections and the 2010 parliamentary elections.

With $1.3 million in Canadian support over two years, the National Democratic Institute has provided legal, procedural, campaign and fund-raising training to nearly 80 percent of women candidates and elected officials in both the provincial council and parliamentary electoral processes.

Canada is providing an additional $2.2 million to the United Nations Development Fund for Women to support a resource centre, information hotline, materials, media access and training for women candidates in the 2009 and 2010 Afghan elections.

Through our $2 million contribution to the Asia Foundation, Canada is helping to increase the awareness of democratic processes in Afghanistan through community-based civic education outreach programs focused on women in rural areas.