Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top envoy to Afghanistan have congratulated the people of the fledgling democracy on today’s presidential and provincial council elections, and paid tribute to all those who made the largely peaceful polls possible.
“By exercising their constitutional right to vote, the Afghan people have demonstrated again their desire for stability and development in their country,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
The Secretary-General also commended the Independent Election Commission, and all other Afghan institutions and international stakeholders supporting the electoral process for organizing the elections in an “extremely challenging” environment.
Mr. Ban’s Special Representative, Kai Eide, called 20 August “a good day for Afghanistan” and said he was pleased with the way the country’s elections took place.
“The fact that the elections have taken place today across the country is, of course, an achievement for the Afghan people,” he told reporters in Kabul after the polls closed.
There had been several attacks in the days leading up to the elections, including Tuesday’s blast in Kabul which claimed the lives of two UN staffers and at least five others.
But Mr. Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that there had not been as much violence today as had been expected. “Overall, the security situation has been better than we feared. That is certainly the most positive aspect of this election.”
Some 17 million voters were registered to take part in today’s polls, the first to be organized by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC). They were choosing from 41 presidential candidates, including two women, and more than 3,000 candidates who are competing for provincial council seats.
An estimated 6,000 polling centres were open across the country – roughly the same number as in the 2005 elections – noted Mr. Eide, who earlier in the day visited a local girls’ high school in Kabul that served as a polling station.
While it was too early to determine the voter turnout, he did say that those parts of the country that are particularly affected by insecurity have had a lower turnout than others.
As the electoral process now proceeds to the counting of the ballots, the Special Representative expressed his “profound respect for the Afghan people, for those who have organized the elections, and for all those who have turned out, determined to take part in shaping the future of this country.”