In a personal appeal to the Afghan people less than three weeks before national elections, a senior United Nations envoy today urged all citizens of the nascent democracy to exercise their right to vote and not allow spoilers to deter the holding of peaceful and credible polls.
“The success of the April 2014 elections will be of critical significance in reinforcing Afghanistan’s institutional and political stability and instilling confidence in the future,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, said in his briefing to the Security Council.
Afghanistan is set to hold presidential and provincial council elections on 5 April, leading to the country’s first democratic transfer of power. It comes amid an ongoing transition process by which Afghanistan is assuming greater responsibility for its own affairs throughout the country.
Mr. Kubiš, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), urged all eligible Afghan citizens – men and women – to exercise their right to vote on 5 April, stressing that this a universal democratic right, as well as a responsibility in strengthening the country’s democratic processes and representative institutions.
“Do not let spoilers and terrorists deprive you of your choice, of your future,” he stated. “Participation as voters, elections officials, and observers, is a rejection of force, violence, and intimidation as the means by which your proud nation decides your leadership.”
He noted that, at this “delicate juncture” in Afghanistan’s transitions, it is a credible electoral process that can provide much needed stability and predictability through a popular mandate across ethnic lines for wider political, economic and social development agendas, including peace and reconciliation.
“I want to make very clear that even groups such as the Taliban that reject the elections, have obligations to respect a civilian process,” he pointed out, adding that he is gravely disturbed by the Taliban’s recent declaration that it will seek to disrupt the process by force, unleashing a campaign of terror.
Security will have a major impact on these polls, the envoy noted. To date, election-related violence has been of a lower order than 2009 and 2010, even as general security incidents have increased. However, it is on the rise.
Meanwhile, he reported that technical preparations for the Afghan-managed and Afghan-led electoral process remain on track. While the UN does not have a formal role in the electoral process, it has been supporting authorities and the independent electoral bodies by advising on election-related matters and providing capacity building and technical support.
“I urge the electoral management bodies to remain committed to full transparency in their decision-making and conduct, ensuring clear and timely lines of communication,” said Mr. Kubiš.
“In addition to the electoral authorities, responsibility for peaceful and credible polls largely rests with political leaders, candidates and their supporters. I urge all candidates to guide and shape the actions and attitudes of their supporters with serious public commitment to opposing fraud committed in their name.”
As part of today’s meeting, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution to extend UNAMA’s mandate until 17 March 2015, while recognizing that the renewed mandate “takes full account of the transition process and is in support of Afghanistan’s full assumption of leadership and ownership in the security, governance and development areas…”
Mr. Kubiš renewed the UN’s long-term commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. “Given the current elements of uncertainty, interlocutors – almost unanimously – stress the continuity and value that UNAMA brings in the exercise of good offices, protection and promotion of human rights, and facilitation of international development coherence,” he noted.
“The Mission’s national footprint continues to be an invaluable asset in undertaking mandated elections, outreach and human rights activities,” he continued, adding that, as other international institutions and countries reduce their presence, the international community is increasingly seeking the UN’s support in understanding and accessing a diverse country.
While the gains made thus far in Afghanistan are fragile, the country is not poised atop “an inevitable post-2014 abyss” as some doomsayers have predicted, he stated, stressing that what is needed in such a period of unpredictability is the smooth and timely transfer of political power.