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Five Eligible Afghans Now Registered To Vote


Nearly Four Out Of Five Eligible Afghans Now Registered To Vote - UN Mission

Almost four out of every five estimated eligible voters in Afghanistan have registered for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, the United Nations Assistance Mission to the country (UNAMA) announced today.

But the rate of registrations across the country, especially for women, remains highly uneven, UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said today during a briefing for reporters in Kabul.

Voter registrations passed 7.8 million on Tuesday - out of an estimated pool of up to 10 million voters - with women comprising 40.8 per cent of the registrations.

Mr. de Almeida e Silva said about 2.3 million Afghans living as refugees in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan are also eligible to register and vote following agreements struck earlier this month.

Presidential elections are due to be held on 9 October, while national and local parliamentary polls have been delayed until next April. Electoral officials are unsure of exactly how many eligible voters there are because there has not been a national census since 1979.

Mr. de Almeida e Silva said that Afghan electoral authorities are concerned that voter registration is lagging in some parts of the country, especially among women. In the south, females make up only about 20 per cent of registrants so far.

Women face particular difficulties because of the entrenched and sometimes violent opposition from some Afghans. Since mid-June three female electoral workers have been killed in two separate attacks as they attempted to register women voters.

This month UNAMA and Afghan authorities have organized workshops in the cities of Kabul and Jalalabad to promote the rights of women to participate in electoral process.

In the southern city of Kandahar, Afghan electoral officials met local leaders and elders to encourage more people to register to vote and to discuss the need to find more educated women who can be hired and trained as education officials.

Many women in Afghanistan have no formal education because their rights were severely curtailed under the Taliban regime that was ousted in late 2001.

Meanwhile, UN agencies have begun distributing relief items in the northeastern and central regions of the country, which have been battered by floods and landslides caused by recent heavy rains.

In Bamiyan province, more than 340 homes have been destroyed, 60 per cent of the annual harvest has been ruined and much livestock has been killed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Fearing for the fate of several nearby villages, local authorities have asked for UN help in removing a dam that has built up out of debris and the effects of mudslides. Officials are also concerned that the large area of stagnant, muddy water trapped by the dam could become a breeding ground for water-borne diseases.

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