Insecurity hurting preparations for Afghan polls: UN

UNITED NATIONS - Insecurity is having a serious impact on preparations for Afghanistan's upcoming elections, especially for women, according to the U.N. and the country's human rights body, which added that despite attacks and threats, Afghans are eager to take part in the polls. A report co-authored by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) found that insecurity has severely limited freedom of movement and constrained freedom of expression for candidates and supporters, hampering their ability to campaign openly through public gatherings or door-to-door visits. These restrictions have, in turn, created significant limitations on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and amplified women's difficulties in participating in the electoral process, stated the report, which covers the period from 16 June to 1 August. According to the AIHRC, three women candidates in the southern province of Kandahar cannot live there because of the insecurity, while other female candidates are unable to even put up posters due to opposition by their families or other people in their neighbourhoods. In another case, a woman in Takhar province had her office closed down and her house set on fire for campaigning. There have been four alleged election-related killings in the month of July, according to the report, which also noted that the political rights of candidates and their supporters have generally been respected despite isolated instances of documented violations. Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, voiced concern that insecurity will impact voter turnout for the 20 August presidential and provincial council elections. I am concerned that security will affect the turnout on the voting day. There is no doubt about that, he told a news conference in Kabul, according to a transcript issued at UN Headquarters in Nes York. It is of course sad that we have conflict ongoing in the country which will not allow all Afghan voters to come to the polling stations and do what they want to do, to give their vote and have their say what the future of Afghanistan should be. 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, said Eide. Monitoring shows that the campaigns of the 3,195 provincial council candidates and 40 presidential candidates have been conducted, by and large, in a dignified and engaged manner, and that, despite increasing insecurity, Afghans have demonstrated a high level of interest and enthusiasm to participate in the polls.

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