U.N. Official Says More Funding Needed for Afghan Elections
24 June 2005
U.N. envoy briefs Security Council on progress toward September balloting
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- A U.N. official expressed worry that a significant shortfall in international financial contributions could force a postponement of the elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September.
Briefing the Security Council June 24, Jean Arnault, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, said that the election project is still $78.8 million short of its anticipated cost. Even though the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) expects that major pledges totaling $34 million will be coming soon, the program would still have a funding gap of $44 million as the September election day approaches.
Candidate nominations, which ended May 26, were "generally calm," Arnault said of the nominating phase of the elections that are designed to fill 249 seats in Afghanistan's Lower House and 420 seats on 34 provincial councils.
Roughly 12 percent of the candidates are women, guaranteeing that the quota of women in parliament will be filled, he said.
Candidate-to-seat ratios vary widely across the country, so some elections will be much more competitive than others, the envoy continued.
He also reported that only 4 percent of the candidates are considered to have actual links to armed groups, indicating that fears that armed groups would try to prevent outsiders from becoming candidates were not realized. In addition, only 212 government officials have nominated themselves.
"This suggests that officials and commanders have not dominated the process and that ordinary Afghans were not discouraged from nominating themselves as candidates," Arnault said. "This also suggests that on polling day Afghans will be presented with a genuine political choice."
But the elections are not without risk, the special envoy said. "It is hoped that the Afghan government -- supported by the U.N. and the international forces -- can improve further the environment in which the electoral campaign and polling will take place."
One significant achievement, Arnault said, is that with the June 30th ending of the disarmament of former army units, over 60,000 officers and soldiers will have been demobilized and over 49,000 will have entered into agriculture, vocational training and small business programs.
Over 9,000 heavy weapons have been stored, millions of tons of ammunition have been surveyed, and efforts are being to safely dispose of the ammunition, he said.
"This is a significant achievement for the Afghan authorities and a first step in the larger effort of demilitarizing the country and paving the way for the Afghan National Army and Police," Arnault said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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