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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Monitors sound Afghan poll alert
Afghan refugees
Many Afghan voters do not understand their rights
Afghanistan's October presidential elections are threatened by insecurity and intimidation, a new report says.

The UN and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission say a lack of information about democracy is making voters vulnerable to manipulation.

Even the most basic conditions for a democratic vote are in danger of not being met, says the report, which follows a wave of militant attacks.

President Hamid Karzai is seeking a popular mandate in the landmark vote.

The election is a key exercise in introducing democracy in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taleban in 2001.

President Karzai is the favourite but faces a challenge from several candidates, including one woman.

Sima Samar, the chairwoman of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, told the BBC that many people did not understand their rights under the secret ballot.

Fear of insecurity

She said powerful individuals were intimidating voters and candidates, and some political parties were refusing to disclose their programmes for fear of reprisals.

The control of local warlords over communities "has the potential to distort the free expression of popular will", the report said.

We don't expect a 100% free and fair election but... at least if it is 60% free and fair we will be satisfied
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission chairwoman Sima Samar
Another serious issue highlighted by the report is "insecurity in those areas where extremist groups are bent on undermining, by violent means, a political process that they fear".

These shortcomings "must be addressed in the coming weeks if the election is to realise its democratic potential", the report said.

The Taleban and other Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt the polls.

Last week, at least six people including three Americans were killed in a massive bomb explosion outside the offices of an American security firm in Kabul.

Last week, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a top international election watchdog, said Afghanistan was not safe for "meaningful" monitoring.


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