UN voices concern over Afghan poll

Candidates’ freedom of movement and expression “severely limited”, report says.

Some candidates have complained about the level of security they have received [AFP]
Some candidates have complained about the level of security they have received [AFP]

“The same limitations have posed challenges to the complaints process and preparations for polling and counting, including voter and civic education.”

Logar attack

Just hours after the report was published, the governor’s compound in the province of Logar, south of Kabul, came under attack from up to six suspect suicide bombers.

In video

Taliban target Afghan polls

“The Taliban say they have sent six men equipped with suicide vests and AK47s,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays reported from the capital.

“There are two things significant about this; Logar is the province right next to Kabul, and the second thing is that in the governor’s compound is the office of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and we are hearing from eyewitnesses at the scene that much of the fighting seems to be around that office.

“It is going to worry them a lot. It is a huge security challenge. Logar is a place that has had a lot of violence.”

The private Afghan television station Tolo, quoting an unidentified official, said Afghan security forces had been battling the Taliban fighters for several hours.

US and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up operations for the election on August 20, the second since the Taliban were forced from power in 2001, but fears remain that polling will be marred by violence.

Taliban advance

In an interview published on Monday, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, said that Taliban fighters were advancing out of their traditional strongholds in Afghanistan’s south and east.

“Our position is that where there is no security, where the election commission can’t go, I don’t think we would be able to do anything”

Zekria Barakzai,
deptuy chief electoral officer

“It’s a very aggressive enemy right now,” McChrystal told The Wall Street Journal newspaper.

“We’ve got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative. It’s hard work.”

Some candidates in the presidential election have complained that they had not been provided with sufficient security.

One campaign manager for a presidential candidate was quoted by the report as saying that security considerations had played a role in deciding to shift from large rallies to smaller ones.

“Provincial council candidates in provinces such as Khost, Kunduz, Logar, and Kandahar reported that insecurity hampers their ability to campaign in many districts,” the report said.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from the capital,  Kabul, said: “The [Afghan] army is so stretched thin to the point that they have told some candidates ‘we don’t have enough people to provide security for you and therefore you have have to use your own people for security’.”

Postponement fears

In some areas there have been no campaign rallies at all, and concerns remain that voting may not be possible in some parts of the country.

“[There is a] threat by the Taliban that they will decapitate anybody who votes in this election, saying this election is illegitimate because it is financed by Americans,” Al Jazeera’s Ahelbarra said.

On Monday, Zekria Barakzai, the deputy chief electoral officer, told reporters in Kabul that voting might have to be suspended in 10 districts unless security is improved.

“Our position is that where there is no security, where the election commission can’t go, I don’t think we would be able to do anything because the elections require a peaceful environment,” he said.

A final list of areas where voting will be able to take placed is expected to be published on August 15.

However, despite the security problems, some officials remain hopeful that the polls can be a success.

“The people of Afghanistan have demonstrated a high level of interest and enthusiasm to participate and practice their political rights in the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections,” Sima Samar, the chairperson of AIHRC, said.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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