UN to ensure Afghans have say in their future
1 June 2009 - In less than three months, people from across Afghanistan go to the ballot box to elect the next president of their country.
Scheduled on 20 August, the presidential and provincial council elections are the second elections to be held in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
“The Afghan people want elections, they want to vote and we will provide every support to the Government and the Independent Election Commission to ensure (Afghans) have their say in the future of this country,” said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) today at a news conference in Kabul.
More than eight million people, including those Afghan refugees living in the neighbouring countries of Iran and Pakistan, registered for the 2004 presidential elections.
For this year’s elections there have been nearly 4.5 million new registrations (those who still possess their registration cards for the 2004 elections were not required to re-register).
The worsening security situation, mainly in the south, southeast and eastern parts of the country, is considered to be one of the main obstacles for the upcoming elections.
“I think there’s no doubt these elections are about driving this country forward with renewed, fresh and determined political leadership. It should come as no surprise that those who want to hold this country back, feel threatened by this process. And without a doubt they will make an effort to try and disrupt this process and that’s why security during this year’s elections is so paramount,” added UNAMA’s Aleem Siddique.
The elections support project of the United Nations Development Programme in Afghanistan, UNDP/ELECT, together with the European Union’s Police Mission (EUPOL) and the Ministry of Interior have started the training of Afghan police officers.
The training explains the roles and responsibilities of the police on Election Day and enables them to ensure the security of the elections.
A total of 35,000 police officers will be trained to ensure security of the polls.
In addition more than 60,000 pocket booklets are being printed and distributed as part of the police training programme.
At the same time a massive civic education outreach programme is underway across the country, including some of the most difficult areas.
Some 1,600 trained staff are using an 11-page flipchart to verbally explain the electoral process.
The aim is for each trainer to inform 100 people everyday, six days a week, about the elections.
A complimentary television and radio media campaign is also being broadcast.
Forty four candidates have registered for the upcoming presidential elections including the incumbent President Hamid Karzai.
3,324 candidates have registered for the provincial council elections, among them 342 women.
The United Nations with the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) ran the 2004 and 2005 elections.
This year’s elections are fully run by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission with technical support from the United Nations.
By Homayon Khoram, UNAMA