The United Nations has condemned the murder of two polling staff in northern Afghanistan just days before the country is set to hold parliamentary elections.
The killing of the two staff members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), for which the Taliban have claimed responsibility, occurred on Wednesday in the Charbolak district of Balkh province.
“Any intimidation and violence against staff members of the Afghan electoral authorities, both the IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commission, is totally unacceptable,” Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“Despite this terrible incident, and despite further violent incidents today targeting IEC staff as well as candidates, it is important that the Afghan electoral authorities continue their work to provide the opportunity to Afghan citizens to elect their representatives to parliament,” he added.
Mr. de Mistura, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the world body remains committed in its support of the 18 September elections, for which it is providing technical and logistical help, a message he reiterated today during a visit to the southern city of Kandahar with Abdullah Ahmadzai, the IEC’s Chief Electoral Officer.
“The purpose of my visit was to demonstrate the support of the United Nations for the independent electoral authorities and the people of Afghanistan as they prepare to vote,” he stated.
The Special Representative met with provincial leaders, as well as a group of tribal elders, who updated him on the final preparations for the ballot. Discussions also focused on the importance of the measures being taken by the IEC to improve the electoral process, following last year’s presidential polls which were marred by fraud.
“The electoral authorities have learned many lessons from the experience of last year, in particular in improving their systems to prevent massive fraud. These elections will not be perfect, but I am hopeful that they will be better than last year’s election.”
“I am, however, concerned about the still low number of female searchers and female polling staff in the city and in particular in the outskirts. A substantial act of participation of women in these important elections is crucial,” he stated.