Afghanistan UN mission hails voter numbers as end to registration drive approaches

Registrations are likely to resume after the presidential election on 9 October in a bid to boost voter numbers for the national and local parliamentary polls scheduled for April 2005, according to the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), which brings together the Afghan authorities and the UN. JEMB Chairman Zakim Shah urged all remaining Afghans “to play an active part in the democratization” of their country and enrol to vote before nearly all registration sites close later this month. The latest data shows that more than 8.6 million people have received voter cards since registrations began in December last year. Just over 3.5 million, or 41 per cent, of these voters are women. Afghan electoral authorities estimate between 9.5 million and 9.8 million people are potential voters. The figures are inexact as there has not been an accurate census since the 1970s because of decades of war and Taliban misrule. UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman David Singh described the voter registration statistics as “very encouraging if not amazing. How many countries in the world do you see 90 per cent of the eligible voter population registering?” The pace of voter registration, however, remains low in several Afghan provinces, especially in the south and southeast, where security is considered weaker. In some parts of the south, for example, only 9 per cent of people have registered, Mr. Singh said. Electoral authorities are holding meetings with community leaders and conducting civic education programmes to spur more enrolments in the south, he added. Some registration sites in these districts will remain open after 15 August to try to catch anyone willing to register. Mr. Singh said there are also checks in place, including the use of indelible ink on voters’ fingers on the day of the election, to ensure that anyone who has registered more than once cannot vote more than once.

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