Afghanistan

Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 23 Sep 2004

Format
News and Press Release
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Posted
Originally published
TALKING POINTS

Procedures For The Accreditation of Political Parties

This last week the Joint Electoral Management Body [JEMB] accredited 4 more political parties to monitor the election, bringing the total number of accredited political parties for that purpose to 32.

On Monday (September 20) the JEMB issued a new regulation expanding to representatives of presidential candidates running as independents the right to monitor elections as well.

The 4 political parties, which are now accredited to monitor the elections, are:

Hezbi Libral (Azadi Khwa) Afghanistan, the Libral Party of Afghanistan led by Mr. Ajmal Suhail

Hezbi Hambastagi Afghanistan, the solidarity party of Afghanistan, led by Engineer Abdul Khaliq Nemat

Hezbi Arman Mardumi Afghanistan, the party of Afghan peoples' Aspiration, led by Mr. Sarajuddin Zafari, and

Hezbi Jamati Dawatul-Quran wal Sunah led by Mr. Samiullah Najibi

Copies of the accreditation procedures are on the side table.

JEMB Sets Rules For Poster Display

Posters are an effective way for candidates to make themselves known to the voting public.

In order to make this fair for all, the JEMB, following a meeting on Monday (September 20), decided to establish some rules pertaining to the display of posters.

1. All political campaign posters are to be immediately removed from all public vehicles.

2. Posters will be allowed on public buildings as long as posters of ALL candidates are allowed to be displayed without discrimination and;

3. That posters are allowed to be displayed on utility posts.

They have issued a press release, which we have copies of in English.

In fact on this issue of posters, I'd like to share with you some information. I was talking to our colleagues in the East, in Jalalabad, and they were telling us that they have received a number of comments and complaints about damage, confiscation and defacement done to political posters. Candidates' supporters report that their posters are being altered with by other people.

This is causing some distress among several parties and the UNAMA office in Jalalabad continues to urge political parties to lobby their supporters to cease the practice of interfering with the posters of the other candidates.

Electoral Budget Contributions: $67.4 Million US

The electoral budget which, as you know is managed by the UN Development Programme, now stands at US $67.4 million dollars. That is money that is in the bank.

The last time we gave you an update on funding was earlier this month, on September 5, and the total amount of money in the bank, was then US $58.8 Million and this is thanks to contributions from the USA, UK, Netherlands, Finland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

Media Accreditation for October 9 Election Begins

The Secretariat of the Joint Electoral Management Body has made known the requirements are for media accreditation. There are three requirements. First, applications for accreditation should be made on the appropriate forms found on the JEMB website (in English and Dari). We have forms available to you here today.

The second requirement: applications must be accompanied by a statement on letterhead from your organization indicating your function, signed by a senior officer of your media outlet, confirming that the applicant has been assigned to cover the electoral process.

And finally, there is the need to provide a copy of a photo I.D., in the form of a passport, or your press I.D. or any other identification card with your photo on.

You can pick up more forms and get more information by going to electoral website, and the address is www.elections-afghanistan.org.af. The UNAMA website has a link to the elections site, so another way to get these forms is www.unama-afg.org.

The accreditation period began on the 20th of September and will go on till the 20th of October. And the Secretariat has established some limits on the number of accreditation per media outlet. For print media, it is 6 plus translator. Radio: 8 plus translator. TV: 12 plus translator.

Briefing Session For Journalists Regarding Polling Day Procedures Continue

Still on the election and journalists, you'll remember that a few briefings ago, the Secretariat along with IFES (the International Foundation For the Election Systems) began a series of briefings on polling day procedures. A first session already took place for Dari speakers. A second will be held tomorrow, on Friday [September 24] in English and is open to anyone who wants to attend. It will be held at the UNDP Compound, at 10am. You are requested to arrive before 9:30am in order to go through security procedures.

16,800 Soldiers Disarmed

The momentum we have been talking about with DDR indeed continues, to the point that the Afghanistan New Beginnings Program [ANBP], that has had, until now, 4 mobile disarmament units (MDU), is now facing the situation of having to expand that, in order to respond to the accelerated pace of the DDR programme, and they are going from 4 to 8 mobile disarmament units.

So far, some 16,800 men have been disarmed and are on their way to beginning a new civilian life. Of that figure 13,835 officers and soldiers have begun their reintegration activities. And during this process 12,790 weapons have been collected as part of the DDR programme.

Heavy Weapons Cantonment Also Gains Momentum

Last Monday (September 20) the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and ANBP started heavy weapons cantonment in Kandahar. This was the first time that heavy weapons were collected in that region.

So far, 45 working heavy weapons have been moved to a site at the Kandahar airport under the protection of the Afghan National Army (ANA).

Another 292 operable heavy weapons remain to be collected in that area.

Heavy weapons cantonment began on the 18th of September in Herat. They have collected 80 of the 286 operable weapons known to exist.

So far 1734 heavy weapons have been cantoned in Jalalabad, Gardez, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul, Kandahar and Herat.

Heavy weapons have been identified following a very comprehensive inventory exercise a few months ago and that exercise has identified 5803 heavy weapons in country. Of these 2277 were deemed operable. 1960 were identified as repairable and 1501 were characterized as unusable. Of this total, 1734 have been cantoned by now.

Third Report On Political Right To Focus On The Political Campaign

In June the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [AIHRC] and UNAMA have begun the verification of political rights in the lead-up to the elections. Two reports have been issued so far.

A third report is due this coming week and it will largely focus on the right of freedom of expression and the principal of impartiality. The Joint Verification Unit, which brings together the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA, has received a number of reports of interference in the exercise of political rights.

The third report, in addition to the campaign period assessment, will also have a special session on the progress in DDR.

Drought Relief For Southern Area

Changing subjects, to an issue that is very important, I'd like to tell you a little about drought. A project for 150 drinking water wells funded by the Ministry of Rural Reconstruction and Development (MRRD) has been completed in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province, which until now is one of the areas highly affected by the drought.

This drinking water project was one of the top priorities identified for Shah Wali Kot during the joint Government / UNAMA / "Provincial stabilization strategy planning" at the beginning of the year 2004.

The water project is funded by MRRD and the location of wells was identified in close collaboration with the district Shura and village representatives.

Of course it aims at mitigating the drought problem and one of the hopes of the impact of these wells is that they will reduce population displacement. The depth of these wells depends on the ground strata and ranges from 25 to 50 meters.

It is estimated that approximately 4,000 families will benefit from this project.

Training Courses for Women in Southern Area

Still in the South and still related to the drought mitigation program is the fact that courses for widows and vulnerable women are underway in 6 centres in Kandahar city. This initiative is being implemented by the NGO ADA and a total of 60 women are being trained in tailoring, carpet making, embroidery, beauty parlor, and computer training.

Everyone who is in the training, and is illiterate, is also going through a literacy program. It is expected that after one year of training these women will be able to start their own businesses.

Funding from this activity comes from the European Commission.

Workshop on Disabled People of Afghanistan

Finally, a short note to tell you that you are all invited to attend the opening proceedings of a consultative workshop of the associations representing the disabled people of Afghanistan.

The workshop is part of the UNDP's Comprehensive Disabled Afghans Programme. It aims at strengthening the participation and leadership of disabled people in Afghanistan. Thirty representatives of national and regional associations of disabled people will participate in the daylong workshop.

The workshop, which began at 9 this morning, is being held in Kabul today (September 23) at the Physiotherapy Training Institute, Wazir Akbar Khan.

A media advisory is available on the side table.

Questions and Answers

Question: Concerning the free TV and Radio spots for candidates by AWAZ [NGO], I have seen only one broadcast. Are others going to be on?

Spokesman: I don't know. You'll have to talk with that NGO. I don't even know how many candidates decided to benefit from this. The funding has been made available through the NGO, I know the NGO offered the services to the candidates, but I don't know how many of them have chosen to make use of that opportunity.

Question: Why was regulation adopted to remove candidates' posters from vehicles. I have seen posters of Karzai on some police cars. Will those posters be removed?

Spokesman: If I understand well, a vehicle that belongs to the state, if it carries a photo of a candidate that is a misuse of state resources. And therefore, I believe, that is what has guided the JEMB to make that decision. They also say that the campaign posters can be posted in public buildings as long as all candidates who have posters and wish to put them on public buildings have been given the same opportunity. So the spirit that guides this decision is one of fairness and equal treatment. Now, heads of state have their official pictures in [public] offices. That of course is different from political campaign posters. You are asking about a specific aspect of a decision of the JEMB and I would therefore refer you to them. Perhaps I have overextended, a little bit my role here by trying to explain how I understand this issue.

Question: At a recent Mohamad Qanooni press conference, the minister called the election process a fake saying fraud had been committed when, during the first months of registration less than 5 million people registered. When it was extended, 5.5 million people registered during the first 20 days.

Spokesman: I was not at Minister Qanooni's press conference, so I am going to say something based on what you are telling me. I have two things to say. One is that the JEMB has regular meetings, at least 3 times a week, with representatives of all the candidates. And that is the proper venue to voice formal complaints. If, in the press conference, candidate Qanooni was voicing a formal complaint, so there by complaining to the JEMB any candidate will then have a formal reply according to whatever the issue is. [On voter registration], let me remind you, because we had been making [voter registration numbers] public since last December when voter registration began in just 8 locations, the 8 largest cities of the country. That was Phase One, which concluded towards the end of April 2004. Some 1.8 or 1.9 million Afghans registered by then. After the month of May, Phase Two began. It's pretty logical that you will have a much larger number because you expanded the area of registration. From December to April it was just 8 cities. From May to August, you had all 34 provinces. You had the 8 cities in addition to these 8 cities you had all other rural areas in those 8 provinces where the 8 important regional cities are. But voter registration also opened up in 26 other provinces, the whole country. I don't have the final numbers yet, but there were over 4000 registration sites that were open, not all at the same time, but were open throughout the country. So that's the reason why you have a much larger number of people who registered during Phase Two than you had during Phase One. Because you had more opportunities, more registration centers that were open throughout the country.

Question: Refresh my memory, how many voter registration sites were open? And polling sites?

Spokesman: I don't have the final numbers on voter registration sites, but I know there were over 4000 of them throughout the country, not all at the same time, but altogether, they reached over 4000. There will be 5000 voting centers. But each voting center will have more than one voting station. At least a voting center will have two voting stations: one for men and one for women. But most voting centers will have more than just two. The total number of voting stations is estimated to be 25000. But as we get closer to election day the Secretariat will be able to give you the total number of voting centers and voting stations that of course will be open in all 34 provinces.

Question: Candidate Karzai says he didn't use government funds for his campaign. Where did he get the funds for his campaign?

Spokesman: I don't know, I'm not his spokesman. Ask him and all the other [candidates]. That's a very good question to everybody. Ask them all.

Question: What is the final budget for the elections?

Spokesman: The budget for the elections is not finalized. But the important thing is that the donors are coming forward. So I don't think that we should have any doubt that elections will happen on the grounds of funding. So rest assured that this is o.k.

Question: Also, DDR must disarm 40000 soldiers. Is that possible with two weeks to go before election day?

Spokesman: On DDR, as you know the presidential decree signed on September 7th, which prompted this new momentum, which is very important, talked about 27000 additional men being disarmed, in addition to the ones that had already been disarmed - and this is probably why you're taking about 40000. I don't know if we will reach that number within two weeks, but I know that it is very different from what we had before. But I know that DDR is expanding not only in numbers, but also in areas in this country. And I also know that heavy weapons cantonment is also having its own momentum. And that's why this issue will be included in the third report for Political Rights Verification, because we all know how important DDR is for the people of this country. And therefore we really want to put it in that context. And the pressure regarding the date of elections is because of the importance of DDR for the environment in which elections will take place. And the decision of the Human Rights Commission and UNAMA is to include in this upcoming report the [status] of DDR and [look at it] in the context of the

Political Rights Verification in the lead-up to the elections and of the environment for people to feel free of intimidation.

Question: A hypothetical question...Quite possibly there could be just 4 candidates left by election day. What will happen, procedurally if you end up with 2 or 3 candidates and people vote for others that have dropped out?

Spokesman: The regulations do not foresee withdrawal of candidates. If any candidates decide to join a campaign or withdraw, their names will remain on the ballot. People may [still] decide to support candidate A, B, or C. So it is upon the candidates to make that very clear to his or her constituency.

Question: What would happen if someone voted for someone who decides to drop out?

Spokesman: I would have to consult the experts, but my understanding is that it would be just one more vote for someone who by then will not be running if that is the decision of any one candidate.

Question: What are the actual registration numbers?

Spokesman: We don't have the final numbers. The Data Center is checking and rechecking. Each time a name goes into the Data Center, they have 16 or 18 checking procedures. So the last we made public here, and I told you guys that we would only come back once they concluded the final stats was 10.5 million. Of course they're still getting the last batch of paper work from the very far away places, but I'm hoping that within the next week or so we'll have the final numbers. And the percentage was about 42% of these were women.

Question: Another hypothetical question. If there is a runoff, then you're looking at another process. Where will additional funds come from?

Spokesman: The original budget was $102 million. And that already foresaw the possibility of a runoff. If there is a runoff, there will be a whole series of things that need to be done. But we'll be able to use [for example] the same ballot boxes, unless they are damaged, but you will have to rehire all the people who worked at the polling stations, and you will have to print the ballot paper for the runoff. But all this is very much part of the planning. From the beginning the experts had this under control, if I can use this expression in this kind of environment.