UNAMA Year in Review August 2009: Afghanistan holds much-awaited elections

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Finally, the month of the 20 August elections with 41 aspirants running for the post of president and more than 3,000 candidates in the fray for the provincial council polls.

Election Day photos - UNAMA special elections website

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Kai Eide, started August by urging election calm and calling for anti-fraud measures and by testing himself the indelible ink to be used.

Condemning the violent attacks on presidential hopefuls, Mr Eide asked all parties to instead concentrate on political debate, noting the country had never "witnessed such a vibrant political debate in this country, and we have never seen such involvement by the public, as we have seen during these few weeks."

"There has been much talk about fraud but there are a number of measures set in place to avoid fraud on Election Day, and these measures are based on international best practices to avoid fraud and to detect fraud... So let me repeat, everything is being done in order to detect irregularities," assured the UN envoy.

"The [Independent] Election Commission (IEC), security institutions and the United Nations are doing whatever can be done to make sure that a maximum number of polling stations are open on polling day," added Mr Eide who reiterated: "It is tremendously important that we are able to open as many centres as possible, so that the elections are open to all Afghans."

Two days before the elections, Mr Eide lamented that insecurity was impacting on the preparations for the Afghan polls, voicing his concern that insecurity will affect voter turn-out.

"I am concerned that security will affect the turnout on voting day. So my appeal to everybody is don't block the road for Afghans, male or female who want to do what the Constitution entitles that person to do," Mr. Eide appealed at a news conference in Kabul.

The UN envoy also called on all groups threatening violence in Afghanistan on Election Day to allow their fellow Afghans to choose their future leader.

Tragically on the same day, 18 August, two UNAMA national staff members were killed following an attack on a military convoy on the Jalalabad Road in Kabul.

The UN Secretary-General, the Security Council and UNAMA condemned the attack.

On Election Day, 20 August, after the close of voting stations nationwide, Mr Ban congratulated the Afghan people on "largely peaceful polls," pointing out in a statement that "by exercising their constitutional right to vote, the Afghan people have demonstrated again their desire for stability and development in their country."

The Secretary-General also commended the IEC and all other Afghan institutions and international stakeholders for having supported the electoral process and organizing the elections in an "extremely challenging" environment.

On the same day, the UN Security Council praised the holding of the "historic" Afghan elections and condemned the actions of those who sought to disrupt the 20 August polls.

Violence again erupted five days after the elections, with at least 41 civilians dead and over 80 others wounded in a suicide truck bomb attack in a residential area in Kandahar.

By Aurora Alambra, UNAMA