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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Q&A: Afghan election guide
Afghan election workers surrounded by ballot boxes at Herat Airport
Ballot boxes are being sent all over the country

Afghans went to the polls on 18 September to elect a lower house of parliament and councils in each of the country's 34 provinces. The elections, twice postponed, came almost a year after a landmark presidential poll.

Q: What is at stake?

The elections are part of the process of establishing a fully representative government under the UN-sponsored Bonn Accords of December 2001.

They are being organised by a joint Afghan-UN commission.

Critics say the voting system is unlikely to produce a representative result, as it favours individuals over parties. Little-known candidates could win seats with relatively few votes.

Some 45 candidates have been barred from standing over alleged links with illegal armed groups, or for failing to resign their government jobs.

Parliament has a five-year term.

Q: Who can vote?

Some 12 million of an estimated 25-28 million Afghans are registered to vote. The minimum voting age is 18.

Q: How many candidates and seats?

There are about 5,800 candidates standing for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) - the lower house of parliament - and for seats on the 34 provincial councils.

The number of members each province returns to the parliament depends on its population.

The large Kabul province has the most seats in parliament (33), while the three smallest provinces - Nuristan, Nimroz and Panjsher - only get two each.

Councils are elected in each province, with nine to 29 members, depending on population.

Q: How are women represented?

Women have 68 seats guaranteed in the Wolesi Jirga and two on each provincial council. However, more women could be elected if they do well.

The 68 women's seats include three from the nomadic Kuchi community, which has 10 reserved seats in the lower house overall.

The percentage of women registering to vote was 44% compared to 41% for the presidential election.

Q: What is the voting system?

The 34 provinces are the electoral constituencies.

Candidates who win most votes in a constituency get the available seats.

Thus in Kabul province, the top 33 candidates get into parliament. The system is the same for the councils.

Each voter gets two separate ballot papers - for parliament and the council. He or she then chooses a single preferred candidate in both.

Q: What are the logistics?

There are over 26,000 men-only or women-only polling stations in 5,000 locations, with almost 200,000 staff.

There are 69 different types of ballot papers. All have the names, pictures and symbols of the candidates, to enable voters who cannot read to vote.

In Kabul province, the parliamentary ballot paper has 390 names and takes up seven pages.

Some opposition parties have described the printing of 40 million ballot papers as excessive and say it increases the risk of fraud.

The total cost of the elections, estimated at $149m, is provided by donor countries.

Q: When are results expected?

Papers will be collected and processed in special centres in the provincial capitals.

Candidate breakdown
Total for councils - 3,025
Total for parliament - 2,707
Total Kuchi (nomad) - 68
Total in both polls - 5,800
Total men - 5,218
Total women - 582

The election commission says this will aid transparency, though opposition parties disagree.

Provisional results of both elections are due by 10 October, with final results expected on 22 October.

Once the parliament is constituted, one of its first jobs will be to decide whether to approve the ministers put forward by President Karzai.

Q: What of security?

The Taleban and their allies have threatened to disrupt the polls. Several candidates and election workers have been killed in Taleban attacks.

Nato has sent 2,000 extra troops and a number of fighter jets to boost the 8,000-strong International Security Assistance Force.

The Afghan national army and police are being deployed at polling stations.

Q: How was the campaign?

The campaign ran from 17 August to 15 September.

There are limits on expenses, with parliamentary candidates allowed to spend no more than $15,000.

Q: What is the media's role?

Each Wolasi Jirga candidate was allowed 10 minutes to broadcast on radio and four minutes on TV.

Provincial Council candidates got one advert of four minutes broadcast once on radio or one advert of two minutes on TV.

Candidates have also been able to hold rallies and distribute leaflets.

Q: Who monitors the poll?

The entire process is open to observation by political representatives, the media and independent missions, both national and international.

According to official figures, 2,874 observers and media representatives have registered to monitor the poll.

Q: What of the upper house?

The 102-member House of Elders, or Meshrano Jirga, is indirectly elected, one third each by the 34 provincial councils, the president and by district councils.

District council elections have been postponed over problems with boundaries so their seats will remain vacant until the poll is held.

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