Key meeting on next steps for elections in Afghanistan
KABUL - The United Nations, international embassies, donors and Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission met in Kabul today to ascertain support needs for the country’s 2009 presidential and provincial council elections.
The meeting was jointly chaired by the United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide and the Chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Dr. Azizullah Ludin.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting the UN’s SRSG Kai Eide said: “Today we start a new phase of turning the ambitions that we have into reality.” He added: “The constitution of Afghanistan in 2004 placed the realisation of democracy at the heart of this country’s purpose.”
In the past three months 3.4 million Afghans have registered to vote. The fourth phase of voter registration begins in the south of the country on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is leading the registration process with support from UNDP’s ELECT project. The UNDP project aims to ensure support for the delivery of the presidential election in 2009 and the parliamentary elections in 2010, a sustainable and self-reliant IEC and an engaged electorate able to make informed choices at the elections.
“The IEC has already demonstrated its commitment and its competence in meeting the challenges of this election process. Our experience demonstrates that very often the second time elections take place are often more difficult than the first, but they are also more important for consolidating the democratic process and institutions,” said the UN’s Kai Eide.
Eide also noted that the transition from elections run by the international community to a wholly Afghan body “is happening faster here than we have seen in many conflict and post-conflict situations that we have seen in other parts of the world. That is very good and gives us optimism.” He added: “No one under estimates the challenges of holding elections amid continuing insecurity but nor should we fail to recognise the importance of elections themselves for stability.”
The IEC’s Dr. Azizullah Ludin said: “Elections are no longer a luxury for Afghanistan. They are a prerequisite for the rule of law, for the strengthening of our democratic institutions, for stabilization and development.” He added: “Now is a great opportunity for the people of Afghanistan to cast their votes for the rule of law in the country and their own prosperity and welfare.”
At today’s meeting the UN Special Representative stressed that of vital importance to the elections were an electoral complaints commission, media commission, a candidate vetting process and independent monitoring by Afghan and international organizations and civil society.