Election monitors play important role

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MARCO WERMAN: �Things might have been different in Afghanistan if there were International Monitors �on the ground' during the voting.� That's the gist, at least, of an international pole released today. We get details from The World's Aaron Schacter.

AARON SCHACTER: Worldpublicopinion.org surveyed nearly 17,000 people in seventeen countries. The results show that most people think their countries would benefit from International Election Observers. Steven Kull is Director of Worldpublicopinion.org.

STEVEN KULL: In general, we have been finding that people look to the International community as a source of legitimacy. They would like the United Nations to play a larger role in their domestic affairs, and this includes a substantial number of countries that you might not think would be eager to have election monitors in their country.

SCHACTER: And that includes the U. S. Nearly half of Americans polled said having International Observers monitor elections would be a good thing. Florida's �hanging chads� in the 2000 presidential election might have something to do with that. But Steven Kull says today's study is prompted by election troubles in Iran and Afghanistan. Neither country had a strong International monitoring presence. Iran doesn't welcome monitors, and the security situation in Afghanistan made it nearly impossible for foreigners to reach the most troubled spots. And, the allegations of cheating there continue to mount. Still, some who monitor worldwide elections actually consider Afghanistan something of a �success story.� Pat Merlot heads electoral programs for the National Democratic Institute.

PAT MERLOT: There are a certain number of safeguards that are in place in the Afghan election process--the election administration, on the one hand; the political competitors gaining access and knowledge about the system, so they can create �checks and balances;� and, non-partisan election observers. The last thing on the list, really, is the role of International Observers, because they play a smaller role.

SCHACTER: Merlot says International Monitors might have deterred fraudsters somewhat. There were some 31,000 election observers keeping an eye on things, but almost all of them were Afghans who were loyal to one candidate or another. If there had been more International Monitors, party loyalists might have been less apt to commit what appears to blatant fraud. Election officials have so far thrown out votes from 447 polling stations (about 200,000 ballots) because of fraud. For The World, I'm Aaron Schacter.