Following an invitation by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) was present in Afghanistan from 2 July 2009 to 6 November 2009 to observe the Presidential and Provincial Council Elections held on 20 August 2009.
In accordance with its mandate, and despite several constraints that the EU EOM faced, it conducted a comprehensive assessment of the entire electoral process with reference to the international standards for democratic elections and the laws of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The EU EOM expressed its opinion on the electoral process in several press releases and the Preliminary Statement on 22 August 2009. The constraints, in addition to the general security limitations and an increase in violent incidents on election day that seriously affected the EU EOM observers' access to the polling stations, included the recurring lack of willingness by important interlocutors such as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the UNDP ELECT to facilitate access to information required for effective observation.
The Presidential and Provincial Council Elections took place in an exceptionally challenging environment. Since the internationally organized elections in 2004 and 2005 missed opportunities to reinforce key institutions, strengthen the rule of law and control corruption have contributed to a degree of impunity and insecurity which has severely damaged faith in the credibility and effectiveness of democratic governance. In addition, ongoing armed conflict had spread to more parts of the country.
The 2009 Presidential and Provincial Council elections were the first after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 to be organised by Afghan institutions, albeit with significant international technical assistance and capacity building support by mainly the UN Development Programme's Electoral and Legal Capacity for Tomorrow project (ELECT). The success of the ELECT project however, was affected by the fact that, despite recommendations made in 2005, the international community only started to address essential organisational needs for the 2009 elections in late 2008. The project took on too broad a mandate, and at times, UNDP ELECT effectively acted as an institution parallel to national authorities. International advisors working for ELECT were also at times uncooperative or obstructive when the EU EOM sought necessary information.