Two weeks until presidential run-off - IEC distributes polling kits
KABUL - The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has begun flying out election kits to different provinces across Afghanistan in preparation for the 7 November presidential poll.
The 6,000 kits contain ballot papers, indelible ink, and voter card punches and will be packed and sent to some of the farthest and most challenging places, including Badakhshan and Paktika by Saturday
They will then be distributed to polling centres via trucks and donkeys with the delivery to the country's 34 provinces expected to be completed by the end of October.
Preparations for a possible second round have been going on for two months.
Earlier, new ballot papers and indelible ink arrived in Kabul and were packed into boxes in the eventuality of a run-off between the top two candidates, incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his rival former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah.
Fraud, which marred the 20 August elections, will be foremost on the minds of voters, candidates and the international community.
The IEC says it is taking added measures to prevent and detect fraud during the run off.
"IEC provincial officers have been identifying district and polling staff who are under suspicion of being involved in fraud during the first round. These people will not be rehired for the run off. Since there are fewer polling staff this time it will be easy to rehire only staff with clean records," said Noor Mohammad Noor, IEC Spokesperson.
Currently, the election agency is assessing the security situation in order to determine how many polling centres will be operational on 7 November.
"Obviously the IEC has learnt many lessons from the first round. We now know where turnout was greatest and where and how many polling centres are required in each city, town and village. Security planning is underway for these locations and when this is complete we will be able to give an accurate figure of the number of polling centres and polling stations that will open," said Mr Noor.
UNAMA Spokesperson Dan Mcnorton expressed confidence in the process, saying that "preparations that have been made by the IEC are on track. We are pleased to see that and we in the UN remain committed to assisting them in the process."
In total, the IEC will have 60,000 officials deployed around Afghanistan on Election Day.
However, the number of IEC staff per polling centre has been reduced from five to three, because it expects the process to be faster and more efficient this time around.
"Fewer polling station staff are needed because there is only one election with only two candidates. Voting and counting will be relatively quick. District Field coordinators are being instructed to re-hire the most literate staff," Mr Mohammad added.
According to an IEC press release, the counting of votes is expected to take place immediately after voting.
The results will then be sent to a provincial warehouse after which they will be retrieved to the National Tally Centre in Kabul between 8-12 November.
The IEC called for a run off election last Tuesday after announcing the final result which gave President Hamid Karzai 49.67 per cent of the vote and Dr Abdullah Abdullah 30.59 per cent.
By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA