The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today commended the country’s electoral authorities on conducting the recent parliamentary polls amid immense security and logistical challenges, and stressed that they must be given the space to complete their responsibilities.
More than 4 million voters took part in Saturday’s elections for the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Afghanistan’s parliament, which were organized by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
“Afghanistan’s electoral institutions are now at a critical stage of fulfilling their duties under the law to finalise the Wolesi Jirga elections,” Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, said in a statement.
He commended the IEC for sticking to the electoral timetable, adding that the body demonstrated “significant” improvements in organizing the elections.
“We recognize that these achievements were accomplished against a backdrop of immense security and logistical challenges,” said Mr. de Mistura, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Noting that the IEC has shown “considerable strength and resolve” in its decisions prior to polling day, the envoy said the post-election days are equally critical – transporting the ballots and other sensitive materials to the central tally centre, the process of checking all materials to ensure that irregularities are detected and that votes are rigorously verified.
Likewise, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) also has an essential role to play in adjudicating individual complaints about the electoral process, he said, adding that anyone who has evidence of electoral offences should bring their complaints to this body.
Mr. de Mistura stressed that the IEC and the ECC must be able to operate in a fully independent manner, free of interference. “The independence of these institutions is crucial to the credibility of the completion of the electoral process.”
In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General acknowledged the efforts of the leadership and staff of the Afghan electoral bodies, the IEC and the ECC, and called on “all parties to use appropriate legal channels to file complaints and asks for patience as the electoral authorities complete the process in accordance with the law.”
More than 2,500 candidates are vying for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, including almost 400 women candidates. Provisional results are likely to be announced around 8 October, but final results are not expected until the end of the month.
Meanwhile, in his latest report on the situation in Afghanistan, Mr. Ban writes that discussions on long-term electoral reform need to begin soon.
“Working on the electoral reform agenda with the Government, electoral institutions, and all relevant Afghan and international partners will be a critical component of UNAMA activities after the elections of 18 September,” he says in the report, which was made public today.
Among the issues to be discussed are the electoral legal framework and sustainability of the electoral calendar, the currently temporary nature of the ECC, a single nationwide civil and/or voter registry, and district boundary demarcations for district council, municipal and village elections.
Mr. Ban also draws attention to the holding of the Kabul Conference on 20 July, which marked a “milestone in Afghanistan’s transition towards the full exercise of its sovereign authority” and resulted in joint commitments with detailed benchmarks on the gradual assumption of Afghan responsibility for the country’s security, governance, and economic and social development.
At the same time, he warns that much of the progress achieved in recent months is fragile and continues to be overshadowed by the deterioration in the security situation. The overall number of security incidents increased by nearly 70 per cent compared to the same period in 2009, owing to a combination of factors, such as increased international troop levels and a corresponding increase in security operations by the Afghan national security forces, and increased activities of anti-Government elements.
Ensuring access for humanitarian assistance remained a challenge, Mr. Ban adds, and ongoing conflict and insecurity continued to limit the presence and the activities of aid agencies across the country.
He states that, maintaining focus and momentum on the transition to Afghan leadership, amid rising security challenges and competing domestic, regional and international political pressures, will require sustained Government attention and the support of international partners.