UN still seeking release of abducted election workers in Afghanistan

29 October 2004

The United Nations continues to be in touch with authorities in Afghanistan as it seeks to obtain the immediate and unconditional release of three foreign election workers abducted yesterday, a UN spokesman said Friday.

Meanwhile, UN staff in Afghanistan continue to go about their work, with no change to UN operations, Fred Eckhard said at the daily briefing in New York.

The three staff members, contracted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the country's first-ever presidential elections earlier this month, were abducted from their UN vehicle by a group of armed men Thursday afternoon in Kabul.

In other news, vote counting has ended but official results will not be available until the status of quarantined ballot boxes is resolved and various oversight bodies have weighed in, according to an official of the joint UN-Afghan panel that supervised the polling.

Unofficial results are expected from the Secretariat of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) within the next few days. Those tabulations as well as the reports of the Media Commission, an independent expert panel, as well as the Complaints and Investigations Unit will then be analyzed and discussed before a final statement is issued, JEMB Vice Chairman Ray Kennedy said at a briefing yesterday in Kabul.

JEMB members have been travelling to various counting centres this week to get a first-hand view of the ballot boxes that have been placed in quarantine so they can issue final instructions to the Secretariat on the disposition of those boxes, Mr. Kennedy said.

Some 163 ballot boxes from around the country were set aside after the 9 October poll because of alleged irregularities at the request of the independent expert panel appointed to probe candidates' complaints.

"After looking at many of these quarantined ballot boxes ourselves and reviewing the formal reports that we will receive from the regional electoral coordinators, we will unfortunately but undoubtedly have to instruct the Secretariat to exclude many or even all of these quarantined ballot boxes from counting," Mr. Kennedy said.

The exclusion of those ballots - numbering some 100,000, or about 1 per cent of the total - should not have an effect on the election's outcome, he stressed. Preliminary results released early this week showed interim President Hamid Karzai received more than 50 per cent of the votes cast, which would rule out the need for a run-off.

"Some of the candidates farther down the list, as far as vote totals, may end up switching places with a candidate above them or below them in vote totals. But as far as the leader, no, it would not seem that there is any possibility that these boxes would change that," Mr. Kennedy said.

 

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