Eide: UN and international community will stick to the election process

11 Oct 2009

Eide: UN and international community will stick to the election process

KABUL - The United Nations top envoy in Afghanistan today refuted point by point the allegations made by his former deputy about the controversial election process in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a press conference and flanked by the US, UK and French ambassadors, Kai Eide gave assurances that the UN-created institutional framework would, in the end, remove fraudulent votes and honour valid ones.

Also in the room were the ambassador of Germany, the European Union Special Representative and NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative along with other international representatives.

“I remain committed to the process… laid down by the Constitution of Afghanistan. And for that, I must say, I have constantly, but particularly over the last few days, received support from many Afghans as well as the international community,” said Mr Eide, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan.

Mr Eide, who also heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said he had not mentioned any specific figure about fraud as “it would be irresponsible” to do so while the extent of the fraud is still being determined by election authorities.

“It is important to me that when information is shared and provided by the United Nations, it must have a level of solidity that can make it authoritative,” he stressed.

“I have spent all my time over the last weeks for one purpose – and that is to bring this election process forward. That’s been a difficult process, marred by so many problems, not least, as you know, by widespread fraud. So it’s not been easy and that has been my only focus,” said Mr Eide

“And it is important to bring this country through this process and to continue this process of installing democracy in Afghanistan. What I have done is to implement my mandate with the full support of the international community,” added the head of UNAMA.

At the beginning of his press conference Mr Eide tackled the so-called ‘ghost polling stations’ as charged by his former deputy Peter W. Galbraith.

“It is true that my deputy tried to reduce the number of polling centres by cutting around 1,200 centres from the approximately 7,000 provisionally planned, which he claimed could not be opened.

“It was said that the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), the US, UK and the EU were behind him. This is not correct,” said Mr Eide, pointing out that “we all understood that to pre-emptively remove 1,200 polling centres would prevent a large number of voters – mainly Pashtuns – from voting.”

“Therefore, we did try to open as many centres as possible, including through military operations in the last week before the elections. It was also decided that a polling centre would only be regarded as open if the IEC (Independent Election Commission), ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) could be present at the polling centre. After lengthy discussions that I chaired with the IEC, Afghan security institutions, NATO, and key ambassadors, it was our collective judgment that around 6,500 could open. At the end, as you know, due to the fluid security situation, 6,200 were opened.

“I could not take this decision one month before the election that would disenfranchise a large number of Afghans from voting,” he added, pointing out that “if we had done that, it would, in itself, have created an important element of potential instability in the country.”

“It is true that in a number of stations that opened in the south and south-east, there was significant fraud – but it’s not only there,” noted Mr Eide who assured that “the extent of that fraud is now being determined.”

As to the “separate but related” issue of voter turn-out, Mr Eide noted “great discrepancies in the numbers in key provinces” that were received from various international sources.

Mr Eide said he is sticking to the “consistent principle behind all the decisions I have taken and that we have taken collectively before and after the elections – and that is, that all Afghans should be given the chance to vote, and that the valid votes cast by them, at considerable risk sometimes, should be counted.”

“I believe that Afghans need a greater voice in the future of the country and that the continuing democratization is an essential endeavour. I also believe that the institutional framework we have created – whatever its weaknesses and those are weaknesses we recognize – I understand well that these institutions would, in the end, be able to remove fraudulent votes and honour valid votes.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled Mr Galbraith from Afghanistan at the end of September, terminating his appointment with UNAMA.

By Aurora V. Alambra, UNAMA