With one month to go until Afghans elect the country’s next leader, the United Nations said today that preparations are in full swing and that no effort will be spared to ensure security, considered the biggest challenge for the elections.
“There will be no let up on behalf of the international community in underlining the importance of security over the coming weeks so every Afghan who has the constitutional and democratic right to vote is provided with that opportunity on polling day,” Aleem Siddique, spokesperson for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference in Kabul.
“Security is imperative for the forthcoming elections,” he added. “Voters must have confidence that they can vote without fear, without intimidation and in safety.”
Forty-one presidential candidates, including two women, are running for the nation’s top post while more than 3,000 Afghans are competing for provincial council seats during the 20 August elections, which are being organized by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC).
Last week the Security Council welcomed the Afghan-led preparations for next month’s presidential and provincial council elections, which are taking place during what has been the bloodiest year since the fall of the Taliban.
It also stressed the importance of “free, fair, transparent, credible, secure, and inclusive” polls.
Logistical preparations are continuing, with thousands of ballot papers arriving in Kabul over the weekend.
“As we speak, 17 million ballot papers are being transported, across the country, to every province, in a safe and secure manner,” he noted, adding that “these are all encouraging signs that bode well for the coming weeks as we approach polling day.”
In addition, more than 1,600 civic educators are briefing voters across the country with an 11-page flip chart detailing the process, while a toll-free elections hotline is taking 30,000 to 40,000 calls a week.
The IEC has also started a massive broadcasting campaign of informational television and radio advertising spots, and is monitoring the media coverage by Afghanistan’s televisions and radio stations.
Briefing the Security Council in June, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan stated that the August election is about more than choosing the country’s leaders.
“It is about strengthening people’s confidence in the democratic process, and about strengthening Afghanistan’s institutions. It is not only about who will lead, but about the legitimacy of leadership,” said Kai Eide, who also heads the UN Mission.