Washington, DC – IRI today announced its plan to send a 30-member election observation delegation to Afghanistan’s August 20, 2009 presidential and provincial elections.  Delegates will travel to Afghanistan to monitor voting and ballot counting across the country. Following the voting, IRI will issue a statement on the findings of the delegation.

IRI’s delegation includes representatives from Canada, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine and the United States and will be led by Ambassador Richard S. Williamson, IRI board member and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Presidential Envoy to Sudan.

One-third of the 2009 delegation took part in IRI’s election observation missions for Afghanistan’s 2004 presidential election and 2005 parliamentary elections.  Prior to Election Day, IRI’s short-term observers will be briefed by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, elections officials, international and Afghan nongovernmental organizations, representatives of the presidential candidates and the media.  They will also be briefed on the rights and responsibilities of international observers and Afghan election law. Delegates will then be deployed throughout the country where they will monitor polling stations and identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in Afghanistan’s election system.

In addition to the Election Day observers, IRI has also deployed three long-term election observation mission staff to monitor the political environment in Afghanistan in the weeks leading up to the election. This group has met with representatives of the candidates and domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, as well as with government officials, election administrators and Afghan citizens.

IRI’s work in Afghanistan is focused on encouraging electoral participation through issue-based coalitions with memberships in every province including women and under-represented groups.  IRI has conducted surveys in Afghanistan since 2003.  In 2004, IRI was the only western nongovernmental organizations to sponsor an observer mission during the presidential election; in 2005, IRI also monitored the parliamentary elections.

IRI has monitored more than 130 elections in 42 countries since 1983.

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