The United Nations top peacekeeping official today expressed his solidarity with the Afghan people on the eve of next week’s elections and reaffirmed the world body’s support for the country through the polls and beyond.
Speaking in Kabul as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the capital, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said, “The upcoming elections are a crucial part of Afghanistan’s political transition – I am here to underscore the UN’s commitment to transparent elections and to show solidarity with all those Afghans determined to take part and make them work.”
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s deadly suicide attack and armed assault against a Kabul office of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC), Mr. Ladsous met with key officials of the agency that has a lead role in organizing the 5 April Presidential and Provincial Council elections.
“I want to send out a clear message of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan,” said Mr. Ladsous, “The targeting of IEC premises and its staff by enemies of democracy is repugnant.”
“As the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, has consistently pointed out,” he continued, “such attacks on civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.”
The UN Under-Secretary-General underlined that violence will not deter the UN’s resolve to support Afghanistan, saying, “The UN has had a presence in Afghanistan for more than six decades, often during some extremely difficult times – this commitment will not change in the weeks, months or years to come.”
Mr. Ladsous also spoke of his hope that no Afghan be denied their basic human right to vote and that each citizen will take up their right to vote, saying, “Every eligible voter should exercise their right to vote and have their say in shaping the country’s future.”
He noted the improvements in the electoral preparations compared to earlier elections, as well as the measures taken in difficult circumstances by national bodies, to improve the security environment to help enable voters to cast their ballots in safety.
Mr. Ladsous highlighted the measures put in place by the IEC and other Afghan electoral authorities to detect fraud, and how the presence of observers and candidate agents at polling centres will help safeguard the transparency of the elections.
“Everything that can be done to counter fraud – not just by the authorities but by Afghan citizens themselves as well – must be done,” Mr. Ladsous said. “Widespread fraud would affect the acceptability of the final results from the polls and would impact upon the international community's future aid commitments to Afghanistan. We are entering a new phase for Afghanistan and transparent elections are essential.”
The UN Under-Secretary-General stressed that it was imperative that candidates themselves should take steps to warn their supporters against committing fraud in order to avoid being associated with stealing votes and, as a consequence, undermine their own credibility. He also urged candidates to commit themselves to accept the results of the elections once they have been delivered and endorsed by the nation’s relevant electoral authorities.
Mr. Ladsous made particular reference to women in the upcoming elections, noting the important role they will play – as candidates, election workers and voters.
“As with all facets of life, women have a key role to play in these elections – without them, the vote cannot be truly representative and credible,” he said.
The UN Under-Secretary-General visited Afghanistan between 26-28 March 2014. During his visit he met with electoral, government and security officials, as well as representatives of civil society and the international community.