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A bright day for democracy

On Saturday, Kabul's well-known bookseller Shah Muhammad Rais was to come to Norway, but the UDI withdrew his visa. Here is the bookseller's own description of the recent election in Afghanistan, a text written only for the weekly newspaper Ny Tid.


Kabul, Afghanistan. An election has a different content in Afghanistan than in the West. It has been 30 years since the country last had a parliament, and during the past three decades the democratic experience has been disturbed by war and violence, the Afghan mass exodus to neighboring countries, the warlords' unfolding, the influence of the drug mafia on politics, the collapse of the state in the 1990s. and the Taliban's rigid version of an Islamic state.

This has made it difficult for Afghans to understand the importance of a choice. This has also been a major challenge for the foreign supporters of President Hamid Karzai's transitional government. According to the Bonn agreement of 2001, Afghanistan was to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections as early as June 2004. Following reports from voters, candidates, the UN and international groups, the elections were postponed and separated for security reasons. Both are now wound up with relatively little violence, and Afghans most in the big cities now understand some of the ABC's elections.

The woman in yellow

National and international NGOs, the media and UN offices made the Afghans aware. They held workshops and seminars, printed leaflets and posters, and sent expert teams to remote areas. Based on last year's presidential election, which was won by Hamid Karzai (55,4 percent), most voters felt safe when they now had to participate in the parliamentary elections. They understood "how to vote", and they did so without fear that the warlords would find out who they were voting for and punish them.

The entire country was flooded with posters and advertisements about the 5800 candidates, from simple business cards handed out by hopeful candidates themselves, to 30 square meter digital prints. Afghan voters, such as foreign journalists and election observers, gathered on this as others gathered on stamps and exciting cigarette packages.

A particularly popular poster was by the youngest candidate, a teenage girl from Kabul, known as "The Woman in Yellow". The poster with her virtuous smile was more reminiscent of a Bollywood ad than a political poster.

Starry skies over democracy

Many Afghans and foreigners have been stuck past the television election updates. These persist as counting millions of votes from all parts of the country will take a long time.

Here in Kabul, Election Day was described as a calm and orderly process under a clear sky. Although Afghan security forces and ISAF peacekeeping forces set up checkpoints around the city, and helicopters circled near tense situations, the day went by without major action.

Flags waged on armored vehicles to democratic nations such as Norway, which had come to secure and support Afghanistan. They accomplished their task.

As the night progressed, the full moon and stars shone with a satisfied feeling that Afghanistan had taken a major step, not only toward democratic structures, but also toward democratic consciousness.

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