Afghanistan prepares for voting day

07 Aug 2009

Photo: Amadine Roche (UNDP/ELECT)
Kabul - Some 17 million ballot papers and nearly 100,000 ballot boxes are being delivered across the country by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC).

“There will be 3,500 trucks involved all together in getting the material to the polling centres. And, 3,000 donkeys to get the ballot papers to the most remote areas. There will be 165,000 polling staff involved in the operation itself.” said Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan when he visited the Independent Election Commission (IEC) earlier this week to lend his support to the huge logistical operation.

More than three hundred IEC staff members are working 24 hours a day, non-stop, in shifts to load, sort, quality check and pack more than 24,000 boxes of election sensitive materials for 28,663 polling stations.

Large blue plastic delivery boxes are being packed with presidential and provincial ballot papers, polling staff identity cards, and other election paperwork along with metal seals for returning the voting papers after Election Day. Each box weighs about 45 kilograms and each ballot paper has its own serial number and is assigned to a particular polling station.

“Everything is coded, province code, district code, centre code, station code,” one of the staff said. “By this means, you can track where the box went. How many boxes were assigned for that province. How many ballot papers were sent to that particular centre and station,” he added.

Under the UN’s ELECT project UNDP is coordinating international support for the electoral process and implementing technical assistance to the IEC.

More than 40 presidential candidates, including two women, are running for the nation’s top post while over 3,000 Afghans are competing for provincial council seats during the 20 August elections, which are being organized by the Afghan IEC. These 40 plus candidates are actively campaigning across the country and voters have the chance to make their own decisions and choose who will lead them.

As Afghans prepare to cast their votes on 20 August the IEC has put in place a number of safeguards to protect the integrity of the 2009 elections and increase public confidence in the elections.

Mr. Eide said these are the most complicated elections he has seen or even heard of, and he emphasized that all measures are being taken to eliminate or reduce any irregularities. As he told reporters, one such measure is the indelible ink being used to mark voters' fingers, so that there are no repeat votes.

Mr. Eide told reporters, “I would like to try out the ink in your presence. And I challenge you to find a material that you want me to try on my finger that will take the ink away without taking my finger away.”

In the run up to the elections the media is an important interface between the public and the candidates. It plays a critical role in bringing accurate, reliable and unbiased information to the people about the candidates, their priorities and their positions on various issues so that voters can make informed choices about the candidates they elect.

Under the ELECT project media trainings have been organized at the national and provincial level in two parts – to provide information specific to the elections, and the candidates. The second part has dealt with technical and ethical issues such as reporting techniques, balanced reporting, impartiality and accuracy as another important role of the media is that of a watchdog, to report any irregularities or violations of the election code.