UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
AFGHANISTAN: Further progress toward parliamentary elections
KABUL, 30 May 2005 (IRIN) - The nomination process for candidates in Afghanistan's forthcoming parliamentary elections has met with enormous enthusiasm. A total of 6,085 Afghans have registered to stand in the historic 18 September legislature and provincial council elections, the country's election commission announced on Sunday.
The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced the success of the nomination process for elections to Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the National Assembly) and provincial councils.
"The candidates' nominations were the first important challenge for the JEMB and we are very happy about such a positive outcome in such a short time," Najla Ayubi, a member of the JEMB, told IRIN in the capital, Kabul.
Of the 2,915 people who had registered to run for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, 347 were women, Ayubi said, while there were 279 women among the 3,170 nominated candidates for the provincial councils.
"The turnout of women, who make up slightly more than 10 percent of candidates, is extremely favourable," she said.
Afghan electoral law requires that at least 68 seats in the general assembly be reserved for women and Ayubi noted that there were enough candidates to fill these seats. However, she also noted that in five more troubled southern provinces, the turnout of women remained too low to meet the required number.
"In Uruzgan we do not have a [single] woman candidate for provincial councils," the JEMB official noted, adding, however, that three women had been nominated for the Wolesi Jirga in the province.
Preliminary indicators reveal that in many provinces more than 100 people were running for the Wolesi Jirga and the provincial council seats. In Kabul alone, more than 400 candidates came forward.
According to the JEMB, the second most significant challenge is the preparation of an efficient ballot paper comprehensible to all Afghans, taking into consideration the high levels of illiteracy in the country.
"Undoubtedly our toughest timeline is the ballot production," Richard Atwood, a chief of operations for the JEMB, told IRIN. "We have to produce about 40 million ballots, 69 different ballots for 34 provincial council elections, 34 Wolesi Jirga elections and one for Kuchi [nomads] elections." He said they were reviewing different types of ballots and after a public consultation, ballot papers would be printed.
"We are thinking of printing it like a booklet or in a big sheet or any other design to be easy and logical for voters," Atwood maintained.
The final candidate lists would be released on 4 June for the six-day display period, he added.
"During these six days, anyone with a legitimate interest in the electoral process may challenge candidates on the preliminary list if they believe a candidate does not meet the eligibility criteria," he explained.
Afghanistan held a successful presidential election on October 2004, which chose Hamid Karzai to be the first elected president of the country. Eight million of more than 11 million eligible voters turned out for that poll.
The parliamentary polls, which would cost the international community almost US $150 million, had originally been scheduled at the same time as the presidential elections but was delayed several times because of what election workers described as 'security and technical problems.'
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