Afghanistan finalizes preparations for historic presidential election – UN mission

8 October 2004

A day before Afghans go to the polls to cast a vote for president for the first time in their history, the final preparations for the elections have been completed, the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today.

Some 21.5 million ballot papers have been printed and distributed to polling stations across Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan and Iran – where Afghan refugees can also vote – in readiness for the opening of polling stations at 7 a.m. tomorrow, UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in the capital Kabul.

About 10.5 million Afghans, including more than four million women, have registered to vote inside their homeland, while some 740,000 refugees in Pakistan and between 600,000 and 800,000 refugees in Iran are also entitled to cast their ballot.

Mr. de Almeida e Silva said 141,600 people will be working tomorrow so that Afghans can vote in one of about 22,000 different polling stations. Ballot counting, which will take place in eight regional centres, is then expected to take between two and three weeks.

About 500 international observers will monitor the voting in 19 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, while more than 5,000 local observers are expected to be deployed across all provinces.

The presidential elections are the first in Afghanistan’s history, and take place just three years after the collapse of the notorious Taliban regime, which severely restricted the rights of women.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, said Tuesday that the poll shows “unmistakably a trend, a process embraced by the population at-large – and candidates – that quickens the pace of the transition away from the rule of the gun.”

UNAMA officials have warned they anticipate violent acts around the election from extremist groups and Taliban remnants opposed to the process. Twelve electoral workers were killed during the voter registration period.


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