“These attacks continue to be serious obstacles in the good conduct of elections,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Representative to Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi said. “But let me stress they have not derailed the process – the process has continued.” His remarks were given as part of a joint press briefing today with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).Security concerns have plagued the Afghan nation in their attempt to get elections off the ground safely and democratically. Yet this year’s environment is an improvement over October 2004, when the country held presidential elections under continued threats from the Taliban and other extremist groups. Partiality and interference by government authorities have also occurred, though participation by women appears to be improving over last year, Mr. Grandi reported. “Some religious leaders have criticized female participation, [but] the religious establishment has by and large been supportive,” he added. Women’s rights were severely curtailed under the ousted Taliban regime.Despite security threats and intimidation, the candidates have shown a determination to campaign, said the AIHRC, and the type of self-censorship that was witnessed last year has decreased significantly. They have observed many political rallies big and small, being held, and candidates’ posters filling up the streets and bazaars throughout Afghanistan. As they did in the 2004 elections, this year the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the AIHRC are verifying the exercise of political rights in Afghanistan to ensure free and fair elections on 18 September. Already there are 10 million registered voters, and 5,800 registered candidates. More than 8,000 election observers, polling agents and international and media observers are slated to be on hand to monitor the elections.