UN, Afghan officials urge opposition to take part in upcoming polls

3 May 2009

The top United Nations official in Afghanistan joined the head of the country's human rights commission in urging all Afghans, including those who oppose the Government, to take part in this year's presidential and provincial council elections.

“I believe that the opposition should know that those who wish to take part in the elections and respect the Constitution should have an open door to do that,” Kai Eide, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, told a news conference in Kabul today.

“I don't underestimate the difficulties, but I think it is important to stretch out a hand and say it is better we compete at the ballot boxes than to fight in the battlefield,” said Mr. Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The fledgling democracy is preparing to hold presidential elections on 20 August, the date set by the country's Independent Electoral Commission.

Sima Samar, head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), emphasized the right of all Afghans to take part in the election. “We cannot deny the right to voting even to those who are fighting against the Government if they are Afghan citizens.

“I urge all those who are opposing the Government to participate in this process as it is a peaceful process and it is a process where they can share the power,” she stated.

The two officials said that the UN and the AIHRC will, as they have done in the past, act as a “watchdog” and monitor the political rights of the people during the electoral process, beginning with voter registration, during the campaign, and until polling day.

These rights include the freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of peaceful gatherings and freedom of establishing political parities and associations, as well as the principles of non-discrimination, impartiality, and non-intimidation.

The basic purpose of the exercise, said Mr. Eide, is “to contribute to a fair and free environment for the political process to take place where the basic rights of candidates, supporters and voters are respected.”

Mr. Eide today issued a set of guidelines for the conduct of all those who are engaged in the elections – government officials, candidates, supporters, electoral officials and media and international representatives – related to the election campaign, the election day and the immediate post-election day process.

Noting that today is World Press Freedom Day, both the Special Representative and Ms. Samar highlighted in particular the crucial role of the media in the upcoming polls.

“I request you to play your role in strengthening press freedom and freedom of expression, especially in encouraging women to run in presidential elections as well as in provincial council elections,” said Ms. Samar, noting that only a very small number of women have registered as candidates for provincial council elections.

Mr. Eide appealed to the media to contribute to public awareness about the elections and the electoral process in order to mobilize as many as possible to go to the polls on voting day.

 

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