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Democracy in Afghanistan: Karzai Keeps the Peace

Hamid Karzai addresses a gathering of leaders in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Tom Bullock, NPR /
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Hamid Karzai addresses a gathering of leaders in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai has led Afghanistan through the transition from Taliban rule and two years of reconstruction. Now he's preparing Afghanistan for its first democratic election.

"My job is to keep peace and move forward -- keep peace, and move forward," he tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "They want to be empowered, the Afghan people, the power to vote, the power to have a better life."

This week, 46,000 voter-registration sites are opening up in villages and rural areas throughout the country. Polling is now set for September, delayed by concerns about security in a country awash in weapons, and beset by violence.

Skeptics sometimes call Karzai the "Mayor of Kabul" because his government, bolstered by the firepower of the U.S. military and its allies, controls very little beyond the capital city. But recently Karzai has begun to emerge from his heavily guarded presidential palace to do some campaign-style public appearances. He's traveled as far as his home province of Kandahar to make a speech urging his countrymen to vote.

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