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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Saturday 17 September 2005

AFGHANISTAN: Electorate urged to vote despite risks

KABUL, 17 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Electoral authorities in Afghanistan urged the voters to cast fears aside and get out and participate in Sunday’s historic poll. Another candidate standing for parliament was killed on Friday in the southern province of Helmand. The Taliban has threatened to disrupt the parliamentary and provincial elections – the first for 30 years.

"Do not be intimated or frightened by the empty threats of those who attempt to influence your vote. The vote is secret. You can and should vote, at your own free will, for whomever you believe will best serve you and your community," Bismillah Bismal, chairman of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) said in the Afghan capital on Saturday on the eve of election day.

Of a total of 22 million Afghans, some 12.5 million eligible voters are expected to vote for the 2,700 candidates standing for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) while more than 3,000 hopefuls are putting themselves up for the 420 seats available in 34 provincial councils.

All eligible voters in possession of a Voter Registration Card (VRC) will be able to cast their ballot at any polling station in the province where they live from six in the morning to four in the afternoon. Separate male and female polling stations have been set, staffed by 160,000 officials.

But on Saturday, several places were still reportedly without polling booths or ballot papers. "Preparations for tomorrow are well on track and we are hopeful, we will be able to conduct elections in all 398 districts of Afghanistan," Peter Erben, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) at JEMB said. "No doubt, tomorrow will be a challenging day, both in terms of security and election arrangements," said Erban.

The distribution of election material, flown in from Austria and the United Kingdom, was in the final stages, according to the JEMB. Delivering ballot papers to more than 27,000 polling stations, in every corner of this mountainous country with few roads, has been a huge logistical challenge - donkeys, camels and horses have been used, along with vehicles and aircraft.

More than 30,000 Afghan police backed by another 10,000 troops have been deployed to boost security. In addition, more than 30,000 foreign troops are assisting in ensuring voters are safe.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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