Afghanistan: Progress on election preparations as UN displays ballot papers

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
KABUL, 28 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Forty million ballots for Afghanistan's 2005 autumn parliamentary elections are being printed in Vienna and London and will be sent to the country in the next three weeks, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced on Wednesday.

After several weeks of reviewing various types of ballots, as well as a public consultation, the electoral body showed the final ballot designs for the Wolesi Jerga (lower house) and provincial council elections to the media.

In many provinces more than 100 people are running for the Wolesi Jerga and the provincial council seats. In the capital Kabul more than 400 candidates have already come forward.

JEMB officials said the final ballots were in the shape of a booklet, which could accommodate a large number of candidates at once, and was seen as the easiest for Afghans to use.

"The ballot that we found overwhelmingly usable by all Afghans men and women - literate and illiterate - was a ballot in the form of a booklet," Richard Atwood, chief of operations for the JEMB, said.

Atwood said 69 different ballots for 34 provincial council elections, 34 Wolesi Jerga elections and one for the Kuchi (nomads') elections were designed in different colours.

"Each person [voter] will receive two ballot papers: one for the Wolesi Jerga and one for the provincial councils," he said. The next challenge was the distribution of the ballots from regional centres to 6,000 polling centres across Afghanistan, which would involve trucks, camels and donkeys, the JEMB official noted.

More than 6,000 Afghans have registered to stand in the legislature and provincial council elections slated for 18 September. According to the JEMB, of the 2,900 people who had registered to run for the 249-seat Wolesi Jerga, nearly 350 were women. Afghan electoral law requires that at least 68 seats in the general assembly be reserved for women.

Ballot production follows a massive national civic education campaign run by the JEMB. Since the beginning of May, 4 million posters, 7 million pamphlets and 1 million stickers carrying information about the general assembly and provincial council elections have been distributed across the Central Asian state.

The JEMB has also deployed nearly 2,000 civic educators to raise awareness of the elections.

But despite the progress, election workers and candidates continue to be targeted by insurgent groups in the country.

In just the past few days alone one election worker and an election candidate were shot dead in two separate attacks in the southern Paktika province, while a wave of attacks by ousted Taliban loyalists has killed at least two other parliamentary candidates and four electoral employees this year.


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