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Afghanistan Faces Challenges In Holding Elections

UN Envoy Warns Afghanistan Still Faces Major Challenges In Holding Elections

The top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan has warned that the country still faces enormous organizational challenges if it is to successfully hold national and local parliamentary elections that have been delayed until next April.

Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, told reporters yesterday that the country is yet to settle all of its district boundaries and does not have credible population figures for every province.

But at a press conference in Kabul, Mr. Arnault said he was pleased that many political parties have already indicated their backing for the poll delay, which was announced last week by Afghanistan’s independent Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB).

“It’s absolutely critical that at the end of the day most political parties should feel comfortable with the electoral process. An electoral process is of course divisive and the outcome will also be divisive. But the process itself must by necessity build a consensus around itself,” he said.

Mr. Arnault said many Afghans were also grateful for the delay given the continuing factionalism, slow pace of disarmament and pervasive influence of drug money across the country.

He said fighting those problems – and combating attempts by the Taliban or local warlords to undermine the electoral process – should be the priorities of the Government and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Afghanistan will hold presidential elections on 9 October, but polls to select representatives for national and local assemblies have been delayed until April. As of last Thursday, provisional figures indicate almost 6.4 million have registered to vote.

Mr. Arnault stressed that “we must obtain credible and acceptable population figures for all districts and provinces.”

More than two decades of civil war, harsh Taliban rule, further war and slow reconstruction mean the country has not had a formal census since 1979. The most recent estimates have placed the total eligible pool of voters at about 9.5 million.

The envoy added that work so far on settling administrative boundaries “has not been satisfactory,” with the boundaries of at least 370 districts still not yet formally identified.

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