Afghanistan to show ‘ballots better than bullets’- UN envoy
Afghanistan’s parliamentary election this Saturday will prove to
war-weary Afghans that ballots are better than bullets to resolve
conflict, the UN envoy to the country has told AFP.
man reading a ballot paper. AFP
Staffan de Mistura said in an interview that cancelling the vote
already twice postponed would hand a victory to the Taliban, as the war
intensifies and insurgents act on threats to attack candidates and their
Millions of Afghans are to go to the polls to elect the 249 members
of the lower house, the Wolesi Jirga, in the country’s second
parliamentary election since the 2001 US-led invasion overthrew the
More than 2,500 candidates are standing and 68 seats are allocated to
women. “What hangs on these elections is the perception by the national
community that democracy is a difficult embryonic process but it’s
something that moves forward,” de Mistura told AFP.
“In other words, ballots are a better way to solve issues than
The elections were also important “for the international community to
feel that they are using their treasure and, unfortunately, also blood
for a cause that is linked to democratic values,” he said.
The United States and NATO have around 150,000 troops fighting a
nine-year Taliban insurgency.
More than 500 foreign troops have been killed so far this year, with
Western public support for the war waning over the heavy losses and
allegations of corruption at the highest levels of the Afghan
The Taliban have warned that anyone associated with the poll is a
target and have been blamed for killing at least three candidates.
“Ideally in a normal world there could have been a better time for
these elections, no doubt, because we are in Afghanistan at a very
critical period,” de Mistura said.
“However if the elections did not take place, the constitution would
have been weakened and the current Parliament would have lost its
tenure. “The message would have been given, which the Anti-Government
forces are stating, that in fact democracy has no future in
Afghanistan,” he said.
“The context is this is a country which has a major conflict at a
crucial time. So the very fact that they are taking place is quite a
miracle. It couldn’t be a worse possible time in order to prove the best
The Afghan Government is organizing the poll, which is being
bankrolled to the tune of 150 million dollars by the West, a foreign
Originally scheduled for April, then May, the poll was shifted to
September to allow time for reforms aimed at avoiding a repeat of the
fraud that marred last year’s presidential election. The reforms would
be pivotal in reducing fraud, de Mistura said.
More than a million votes, most of them for President Hamid Karzai,
were thrown out after the 2009 election, undermining the legitimacy of
the Government and presidency, both for Afghans and the Western nations
fighting to keep him in power.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) published a list of polling
centres on August 18, contrasting with last year when the list was
released two days before the ballot.
This time, “candidates will be able to know much more in advance
(and) security structures will be there, too,” said de Mistura.
The IEC has said 938 polling centres, or 14 percent, will not open
because security cannot be guaranteed, leaving 5,897.
“In a country at war, if those open and people are in a more or less
secure environment capable of going to vote, it will be quite an
achievement.” De Mistura expects a higher participation than last year,
when turnout was as low as 10 percent in the most insecure regions in
the south, where the insurgency is concentrated.
Ballot papers had been prepared based on an estimate of 10.5 million
eligible voters, he said. Lacking a census, the population is generally
estimated at 28 million.