UN SRSG KAI EIDE: Welcome everybody. This is not really a press conference, but I want to give some first impressions after the closure of the polling centres. First of all, let me remind you all of what our thinking was and about all the questions I got from you a couple of days ago. Those questions were: With all these security incidents and with this security situation will it be possible to hold elections in Afghanistan?
Now, we see that elections have taken place across Afghanistan and I believe that, that is in itself an important achievement.
There have also been a lot of discussions over the number of poll centres that the election commission will be able to open. Now we know that around 6,200 polling centres were open. The figures are not precise yet. But that is what we believe is the approximate number. That number is equal to the number that was open in 2005. And I must also say that, too, is an achievement.
I was worried yesterday – and this morning – that we will be faced with a security situation that will make it much more complicated than what we have seen.
I think we can see today and safely say that elections have taken place in an orderly manner as possible in all parts of the country.
As obvious to all: Those parts of the county that are particularly affected by the security situation have had a lower turnout than those who have a stable situation.
But, the figures that we have vary very much – not only from region to region – according to what sources that we have been talking to among Afghans and the international community. So it is impossible for me to say what percentage the turnout would be in each province and each part of the country.
The fact that the elections have taken place today across the country is, of course, an achievement for the Afghan people.
And I think we have witnessed also that, wherever possible, mobilization of political energy and interest that we have seen over the last few weeks, have also been reflected at the ballot stations.
There was one young voter who said that I am not going to allow people with rockets to steal this country away from me, and I want to go and vote.
I think that’s an attitude that many Afghans share. It reflects also that young Afghans, particularly, I believe, have confidence and belief in the democratic processes and want to take part in those processes.
So, overall, 20 August 2009 has been a good day for Afghanistan.
Now we will pass to the next phase which will be the counting of the ballots. It will be the handling of complaints by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and then eventually see the outcome of what has happened today.
But I would like to pay tribute to all the Afghans in the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the security forces and all the others who participated throughout this process for the achievement we can see today. Thank you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
REUTERS: May I just ask you what you felt about the reports you heard today? What you felt has been the most the positive, and what has been the most alarming report you heard today?
UN SRSG KAI EIDE: The most positive certainly is the fact that the security situation has, in general, allowed people to take part in the elections. I understand that in some countries, the perception of security has been different than in the more stable areas. But, overall, the security situation has been better than we feared. That is certainly the most positive aspect of this election.
What are the most negative, as well? There are a number of complaints; there are claims that there have been irregularities.
I do not want to comment on them, it is not my job. It is up to the Independent Election Commission to take position and decide on complaints that they will eventually receive.
ASSOCIATED PRESS: I understood you will not comment. But, is there anything you have observed today, either in terms of results, or just low turnouts in some areas, that makes you worried about the Afghan people not accepting the results?
UN SRSG KAI EIDE: First of all, when it comes to the turnout: We don’t have any precise figures… we have indications. But I can tell you that only in the last 10 minutes I have talked to different sources with regard to the turnout in one particular province and those indications vary quiet significantly. Therefore, it’s really premature to give any indication on that.
With regard to the complaints: I will stick to my role. I have heard what you have heard. And my role is not to comment on violations that may have taken place.
In the aftermath of any elections of this nature – and in such a complicated environment – it is inevitable that you will hear complaints. I think it is also inevitable that there will be some irregularities. How to look at each individual complaint that comes in, that is really not my job.
RTA [translated from Pashto]: Now that the polling day for the Presidential and Provincial Council elections went well, there are some concerns of clashes and tension in the aftermath of elections. What is the UN’s position on that?
UN SRSG KAI EIDE: I expect the political leadership and other parts of the establishment of this country to make sure that there is no such instability and to get together after the election process is over – and I have said this over and over again.
The Afghan people as well as the international community expect that the political establishment will get together and unite behind a common agenda. They need this. The Afghan people do not need further fragmentation and division. We have to move forward that is why we are here. We have a commitment, here and we want to work with Afghan people who are united and where the political establishment can come together-what I will call a governance of consensus. I did not say a ‘government’ of consensus, but a ‘governance’ of consensus. And I hope, and I believe, that the political maturity that was demonstrated during the elections campaign will also be reflected in the aftermath of the elections day.
Let me add one final word: I have underlined over and over again the complexity of organizing elections in this country in so many ways…the conflict, weak infrastructure, weak institutions, and remote inaccessible areas. To organize such elections, in such a situation, is a tremendous challenge that I have never seen before in my life, and now I am a grown up person. What is the sense that feels me the most today when this Election Day is over? I can tell you: It is profound respect for the Afghan people, for those who have organized the elections, and for all those who have turned out, determined to take part in shaping the future of this country.
Strategic Communication and Spokespersons Unit
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Tel: 079 000 6121; +39 083 124 6121