Tuesday, October 21, 2014

UN pledges full support to Afghan elections

A warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul was today the centre of attention as election workers packing ballot papers and boxes welcomed the UN’s top envoy in the country.

Since the last A300 flight with 153,000 presidential and provincial ballot papers landed at Kabul Airport last week, the huge warehouses of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission have been filled with non-stop energy and a vigorous vibe.

Today the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan Kai Eide, visited the IEC to lend his support to the huge logistical operation.

Workers greeted him as “sahib” as he shook hands and walked around the busy centre.

More than three hundred staff are working 24 hours a day, non-stop on shifts to load, sort, quality check and pack more than 24,000 boxes of election sensitive materials for 28,663 polling stations.

Since 22 July, the IEC has finished the packing for more than 20 provinces and has items for five provinces distributed. The goal is to finish the packing for all Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in the next one week.

“I wanted to come here to have an impression of the dimension of the operation that is ongoing now. I also want to express my admiration for the Independent Election Commission for the tremendous work which is underway,” Mr Eide said.

Large blue plastic delivery boxes are being packed with presidential and provincial ballot papers, polling staff identity cards, and other election paperwork along with metal seals for returning the voting papers after Election Day.

Each box weighs about 45 kilograms and each ballot paper has its own serial number and is assigned to a particular polling station.

“Everything is coded, province code, district code, centre code, station code,” one of the staff said.

“By this means, you can track where the box went. How many boxes were assigned for that province. How many ballot papers were sent to that particular centre and station,” he added.

Speaking about the quality of the election materials, Mr Eide challenged the media to bring anything they could find to a meeting next week to test the indelible ink being used by the IEC, joking that he would accept anything that would remove ink “without taking my fingers away.”

Today the packing of sensitive materials for Faryab and Helmand provinces was completed at the IEC’s warehouse for delivery to provinces, then down to districts and finally down to polling station managers for opening on Election Day, 20 August.

Mr Eide said: “My message to everybody including the Taliban is – it is in the interests of each and every Afghan that elections can take place in each province, in each district and each village so that all Afghans can express their views and cast their vote… it is important for all of us to see these elections reflect the will of the people.”

By Kangying Guo, UNAMA

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All eyes on the Afghan elections

Afghanistan is headed towards a new beginning in its history. The elections due to take place in just a few weeks will not only determine the fate of the country for the next five years, but will also establish its future and the future of its people for a long time to come.

Our first democratic elections five years ago marked a symbolic end to decades of bloody struggles that have scarred Afghanistan over the past decades, and looked towards a secure and hopeful prospect for the country. This second election will determine the viability of that hope. The tomorrow of Afghanistan is at stake.

The international community is deeply appreciative of the amazing progress Afghanistan has made in the last eight years. However, it is also concerned about the sustainability of what we have achieved, and whether a strong and prosperous Afghanistan will emerge from these elections and over the course of the next few years. Afghanistan has rightly been placed in the international spotlight in past years, and this is especially evident due to the attention of recent weeks: the UN Secretary General’s report, to the 30 June Security Council debate, to the Security Council Presidential Statement, together with a number of national foreign policy statements, have all given particular emphasis on the need for Afghanistan’s elections to run smoothly. All of this focus has been directed towards the importance of successful elections to bring Afghans together into a unity of understanding, actions, and of responsibility for the nation.

In this effort, UNAMA has proven to be a crucial link between members of the international community and Afghans on the ground. It was worked diligently, not to run the elections, but to coordinate efforts and ascertain that all parties are playing by the rules of the game. Without their help and that of the international community, the elections could not be carried out successfully. The international community is involved in the process of conducting the Afghan elections because it recognizes that the future of Afghanistan is trembling in the balance, and that if the election process is not legitimate and if the outcome is not considered valid by all, the future of the nation will be undermined. However, it intends to play only a supporting role in pushing these efforts forward, through the assistance of soldiers, monitors from over 40 countries, and through the financing of the elections. It recognizes that the outcome is a purely Afghan issue, and that Afghans must choose their leaders as they desire. As Kai Eide, the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, has rightly asserted, a level playing field is essential at the onset, but the responsibility of the successful elections also lies in the hands of the candidates themselves, as well as to the Afghan voters.

The success of these elections will allow Afghanistan to move away from continued international military efforts, and toward becoming a self-sustained nation. It is essential that the elections are a success, because what happens in Afghanistan will also affect the stability of the region and the world. By the end of August, Afghanistan will hopefully be unified and strengthened, rather than fragmented and weakened. Unfortunately, elections are often divisive; but it is the duty of all Afghans to ascertain that this divisiveness will be a result of a democratic right of difference of opinion, rather than due to the coercion that has determined Afghan decisions over the past decades of occupation and oppression. All Afghans, both in the country and abroad, have a duty to help Afghanistan and to celebrate the opportunity to exercise their right to democracy and self-governance.

The promise of Afghanistan’s recent progress cannot serve as an excuse for a relaxation of our dedication to the country. Afghanistan needs the support of its citizens and the unwavering commitment of the international community now more than ever before. The international community is looking to Afghanistan to prove that democracy and freedom can emerge from dire and desolate circumstances. Afghanistan must show that a phoenix can truly rise from the ashes. For the sake of nations and peoples across the world, Afghanistan must set the example of free, fair, legitimate, secure, and transparent elections.

The elections must maintain rule of law and give Afghanistan the chance to build on the progress of the last years. They provide the greatest opportunity to unite its people, strengthen and render sustainable its institutions, and provide a strong foundation for continuing efforts towards a secure, strong, and independent Afghanistan. We look to the candidates, to the voters, to the Independent Electoral Commission, the Electoral Complaints Commission, the Media Commission, the Afghan National Army and Police, UNAMA and the Special Representative to the Secretary General, and ultimately to Afghanistan as a whole to ensure, through their dignity of action and respect for the democratic process, that the elections create and perpetuate an Afghanistan we can be proud of, for all of our sakes.

By Dr Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations.

Source: United Nations Assistance in Afghanistan