Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle made the following statement today (18 September) to journalists in Bonn on the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan:
“Afghanistan has gone to the polls and the polling stations in Afghanistan are now closed. This is an important day for Afghanistan and for democracy building in Afghanistan. The country cannot move towards democracy unless elections are held.
Naturally, it’s too early to undertake a detailed assessment of the elections. For that we will have to hear and assess the feedback from election observers throughout the country. I’ve just spoken at length with Rüdiger König, the German Ambassador in Kabul, as well as with Michael Steiner, the German Government’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Members of our Embassy in Kabul and its offices in other cities visited more than 20 different polling stations to evaluate the situation for themselves.
That the elections took place at all is in itself a success for Afghanistan. We know they were held under very difficult conditions and we regret and condemn the attacks and acts of violence which occurred.
Nevertheless, with all due caution and having looked at the information gathered so far, our impression is that these elections went off better than many feared. It’s not yet possible to make a final assessment. However, our impression is that the situation – especially compared to that during the last elections – has not deteriorated. The security situation doesn’t seem to be any worse than during earlier elections, nor was the turnout any lower than in earlier elections.
As for the manipulations we’ve heard about, it has to be said that we take these indications seriously and that we will investigate them. However, a final evaluation on this is not yet possible.
Those Afghans who stood for election despite the tense situation, as well as those who went to the polling stations, showed they had the courage to stand up for democracy. We in Central Europe, where we have the privilege to enjoy a much safer environment, can only express our great respect for them.
This courage and this will to help build democracy in their country not only deserves respect but is also the prerequisite for transferring ever more responsibility for security to the Afghan Government. For our aim is to hand over complete responsibility for security to the Afghan Government in 2014. Naturally, democratic elections also make an important contribution towards this. Finally, this is about reconciliation, about reintegration and, of course, it is also about democratic participation in the country.
I regard today as a commitment by many Afghans, both voters and candidates - especially the women involved – to democracy building in their country. More candidates than ever before stood for election. And among these candidates there were more women than ever before. This, too, shows that progress has been made despite all the setbacks, and we should recognize that.
That’s the way forward and we will continue to support Afghanistan along this path.”