Thursday, October 23, 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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