JEMB Announces Candidate Nomination Period
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
25 April 2005 -- Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) issued statement on Monday announcing details about how to apply and run as candidates for Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September.
Afghan citizens who are registered voters may apply between 30 April and 19 May to become candidates for the upcoming Wolesi Jirga (The Lower House of the National Assembly – House of the People) as well as for one of 34 Provincional Councils.
The candidates wishing to run for the Wolesi Jirga must be aged 25 years or over. Candidates running for Provincial Council must be 18 years old or over. Candidates must also sign a code of conduct, which includes a declaration that they do not have, or are not part of, any non-official military group, according to the JEMB statement issued on Monday.
On 18 September, Afghanistan will reach its final phase of political reconstruction period which was set forth in the Bonn Agreement of December 2001 and will thus establish its first democratically elected legislation body as one of the three fundamental pillars of democracy.
Afghan Kuchis To Vote For Their Representatives In Wolesi Jirga Election
Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) announced on Sunday that the Afghan Kuchis, or Nomads, will be able to participate on the September’s Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) election.
The JEMB officials announced that in order to ensure Kuchi participation on the upcoming elections and thus allow Kuchis have their say in legislation making body, a certain number of seats in the future Parliament will be allocated for Kuchi representatives.
“There will be one ballot for the Kuchis Wolesi Jirga election,” according to JEMB statement. All Afghan nomads will thus have an opportunity to cast their ballot for the list of Kuchi candidates on 18 September. Kuchis will be able to vote in specially allocated polling centers across Afghanistan.
The Kuchi candidates must abide by the candidate requirements as stipulated in the Constitution, the Electoral Law as well as JEMB regulations in order to be able to stand as candidate during Wolesi Jirga elections. All the successful candidates will then appear on the voting ballot.
As regards the registration and voting, all the Kuchis eligible to vote (see Electoral Law) must be of 18 years or over on the Election Day and must hold a proper registration card. Those Kuchis who did not get their registration cards during the Presidential Election in October, or those who lost it, will be able to register again at any registration center in any province in Afghanistan during registration period and get their registration card anew.
All the eligible Kuchis will be able to vote for their representative at any polluting station across Afghanistan.
AFGHANISTAN: Focus on preparations for parliamentary elections
KABUL, 25 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Six months after a successful presidential poll, Afghanistan’s fledgling political system is starting to prepare for a much more ambitious undertaking: parliamentary elections slated for 18 September.
Already, colourful posters conveying party messages can be seen in public places in the capital Kabul, and in some provincial towns. Local TV and radio stations have begun airing debates and newspapers are full of editorials and comment on what sort of parliament might emerge from the historic election.
However, in a country new to democracy and elections, where insecurity, illiteracy and strong conservative traditions continue to hold sway, holding a genuinely representative national parliamentary poll remains a huge challenge. The logistics of moving voting materials and equipment to around 30,000 polling stations in 5,000 locations across a country largely devoid of roads and infrastructue present another hurdle to election organisers.
TIMING AND LOGISTICS
The parliamentary election date has had to be put back at least twice. The poll for parliament was originally scheduled for directly after the presidential election in October 2004, but was postponed due to poor security, lack of administrative capacity and slow progress on a census of the country's population.
The logistics of running a parliamentary election in Afghanistan will be far more complicated than the presidential election and will require better organisation and monitoring, authorities say.
“There is no doubt that this election will be a very hard contest. We will have all in all 69 different elections, two in each province and probably one for the Kuchi [nomad] community separately, Peter Erben, the UN chief electoral officer for Afghanistan, told IRIN in Kabul.
There will be two elections in each province on the same day, one for the 249-member Wolusi Jirga [lower house of parliament] and another for the provincial councils. Each provincial council will have between nine and 29 members, depending on the population level.
Erben said that he was aware that the local dimension to the forthcoming election meant there was potential for conflict - with local warlords likely to put undue pressure on voters to cast their ballots in the their favour.
JEMB CONFIDENT BUT ACCEPTS THERE ARE REAL CHALLENGES
The UN-government Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) that oversees elections, has recently been reconstituted in the run up to September’s vote. The JEMB consists of nine Afghan members appointed by President Hamid Karzai and four international commissioners appointed by the UN.
The electoral body has already started deploying nearly 6,000 local staff and 400 international election workers to eight regional and 34 provincial offices to begin the process of compiling voter rolls and identifying places where people can vote on the day itself. The JEMB estimates staff numbers will swell to 200,000 as polling day approaches.
The electoral body said it has learnt many important lessons from the October elections, which were marred by voter intimidation and a dispute over the use of indelible ink, designed to stop people voting twice. Ten electoral workers were killed by insurgents in the days and weeks before the poll.
But the JEMB remains confident this year’s election will take place in a much safer environment. “We believe in very close cooperation with Afghan and international security forces, and that we will be able to go further in our ability to secure our staff and voters all over Afghanistan,” Erben said.
REGISTRATION OF CANDIDATES AND VOTERS
Registration of candidates is expected to begin late in April. Nearly 10,000 candidates are expected to nominate themselves for election. According to electoral law, candidates must be Afghan citizens over 25 years of age presenting the signature of at least 300 voters in support of their application.
The JEMB then has the task of vetting and registering the thousands of parliamentary hopefuls before the end of May, to keep the whole process on schedule. “The process of looking through that many candidates in only a matter of weeks stands as one of the most significant challenges,” a JEMB statement said.
Meanwhile, a Single Non-Transferable Vote system (SNTV) has been chosen by the government of Afghanistan as the most appropriate voting system for the national parliament and provincial councils.
Under the SNTV system, voters select just one candidate from those listed on the ballot paper. The candidates with the highest number of votes wins the seat or seats allocated to their respective constituencies.
A public awareness campaign and a supplemental registration exercise for those eligible Afghans who did not have the opportunity to register as voters last year are also being introduced shortly. The registration is planned to last for four weeks, starting in July.
But some politicians are already grumbling that the poll will fall far short of international electoral standards. “This time the UN says it wants ‘an acceptable and credible’ election, why not a fair and free election? I think they are accepting that there will be fraud and mistakes, this is unacceptable,” Haji Merajudin, a candidate who hopes to stand for election in the central Kabul constituency, told IRIN.
'Six dead' in Kandahar gun battle
BBC News / Monday, 25 April, 2005
Six people have been killed in a suspected Taleban attack on a mayor's office in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, police say.
They say the attack led to an hour-long gun battle with government troops.
Deputy police chief Salim Khan told the Associated Press that 60 gunmen had attacked the office. Four attackers and two soldiers had died, he said.
The clash is the latest in a series, which observers say shows the rebels are stepping up their campaign.
"We found the bodies of the four dead Taleban along with their AK-47s and machine-guns," Mr Khan said.
He told the AFP news agency that the attackers came from "behind the border", in Pakistan's tribal areas where the militants are believed to have bases.
Correspondents say that Kandahar is still affected by Afghanistan's three-year-old insurgency and is used as a base by people smuggling drugs out of the country through Pakistan.
There are also violent factional feuds in the area, which officials regularly blame on the Taleban.
On Sunday, the Romanian government said one of its soldiers had been killed and two others injured when their patrol vehicle struck a mine near the city of Kandahar - a former Taleban stronghold.
In other incidents over the weekend, the US army reported the deaths of four suspected militants and two Afghan soldiers.
Two U.S. and two Afghan soldiers wounded in action
April 25, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Two U.S. and two Afghan Soldiers were wounded Sunday when their patrol came under attack north of Deh Rahwood in Uruzgan Province.
The wounded were evacuated to Kandahar Airfield for treatment. None of the injuries were life threatening.
A quick reaction element moved from a nearby base to the scene soon after the incident.
Of the injured, one U.S. Soldier was treated and will return to duty. The other U.S. Soldier is currently being evaluated and may be taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility in Germany for surgery.
One Afghan National Army Soldier received treatment and is in stable condition. The second Afghan Soldier received minor wounds, was treated and returned to duty.
Afghanistan 'bomb attack foiled'
BBC News / Monday, 25 April, 2005
Afghan police say they have foiled a suicide bomb attack after they stopped a car loaded with explosives and arrested its driver.
The incident happened in the western city of Herat during a routine inspection of vehicles at a checkpoint.
The police found rockets, mines and anti-aircraft shells inside the car, an official said.
The incident comes after a bomb exploded in a car in the capital, Kabul, on Sunday. No-one was injured.
Investigators declined to say who might have been planning the alleged attack.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said the bomb was made of rockets, mortar rounds, land mines and dynamite wired together
"It was almost 400 to 500 kilos (880 to 1,100 pounds) of explosives placed in a Toyota station wagon model 1993 and its Afghan national driver has been arrested as well," he told AFP news agency.
There has been an increase in militant activity in the south and east of Afghanistan after a lull during the winter.
Coalition forces open clinic near Khowst
April 25, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan – A new brick-and-mortar medical clinic opened April 24 at Forward Operating Base Salerno.
On hand for the opening ceremony were Mera Juddin Pathan, Khost provincial governor; U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Barber, commander of the 249th General Hospital; U.S. Army Lt. Col. George T. Donovan, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and Afghan doctors Bashir Ahmadzai and Dr. Rasool.
The building will be used by Coalition forces to offer medical services to Afghans in what is known as a Medical Cooperative Assistance Program, or MEDCAP.
The facility is near the north gate of FOB Salerno, which is located near the city of Khowst. Security for the clinic will be provided by the Khost Provincial Force, led by Commander Shafiq.
The new facility is called the Brick & Mortar Clinic. It won’t be open continuously; it will open to the public only during MEDCAP operations. Dates and times for MEDCAP operations will be announced through local media and radio.
The MEDCAP operations will be run by Charlie Company of the 307th Forward Support Battalion and the 249th General Hospital.
The project was proposed by members of the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment and was constructed by Warak Dilpory, a local Afghan company.
The construction and furnishings were funded by the United States at an estimated cost of $20,000.
Compromise on alcohol leaves Afghans shaken, stirred
By Kim Barker / Chicago Tribune / April 25, 2005
No one wants to see Abdul Jabar Sabit when he walks into a bar. Yet nervous workers still rush up, with forced smiles and handshakes, asking if he'd like a soda or a seat.
Sabit wants neither. In his traditional robe and hat, with a full, white beard, he is the Afghan equivalent of the moral police, the main enforcer in Kabul against alcohol and prostitution.
"You are Muslim, aren't you?" he said to the Turkish manager of one fully stocked bar. "You aren't allowed to serve this liquor."
"We are Muslim," manager Cenk Acar said. "But this is business."
The business of selling alcohol is one measure of how life has changed in Kabul since the Taliban, which banned it as un-Islamic, fled in late 2001. Alcohol has become lucrative but it has also become a sore point between foreigners here and many locals. Afghanistan has struck an uneasy balance between law and practicality. The constitution bans alcohol, but foreigners are allowed to drink it.
This double standard has caused resentment among liberal and conservative Afghans. Many liberal Afghan men would like to drink alcohol. Conservative Afghans would like to rid the country of all alcohol, and, if necessary, the foreigners blamed for bringing it in.
The growing number of bars and restaurants symbolizes the power of the estimated 2,000 foreign workers in Kabul and a potential spark for any backlash from ordinary Afghans. This is still an Islamic republic, where women are jailed for marrying against family wishes or for adultery.
As of late March, 84 businesses were licensed to serve liquor in Kabul, according to tourism officials. Sabit, the legal adviser to the Interior Ministry, insists there are many more.
He is responsible for making sure businesses that serve alcohol refuse Afghan customers. For the first time, his office raided some of these businesses in February. Several clubs were caught serving alcohol to Afghans. Others were nabbed providing foreign prostitutes to foreigners, and sometimes to Afghans.
Police shut down 11 clubs, accusing several of doubling as brothels, Sabit said. They arrested seven Afghan men and five Chinese women in one.
"I don't want any of these places to be here," Sabit said.
No teeth to booze laws
But as with many laws in the new Afghanistan, the ones governing alcohol and other vices have no teeth. Most of the shuttered clubs have reopened, Sabit acknowledged. He is still waiting for the Supreme Court to sign deportation orders for the 30 foreigners accused of prostitution.
Still, every week or two, Sabit and several police officers tour the clubs, search guest houses and question workers. Many workers are foreign, speaking no Afghan languages and only a little English. If female workers dress conservatively, Sabit asks them in English what happened to their revealing clothes. If they dress provocatively, Sabit points it out. "No English," the workers inevitably say.
On one recent visit, he gestured at a Chinese woman dressed in a fur jacket, fishnet stockings, white miniskirt and white boots--almost unbelievable in a country where many Afghan women still cover their faces and everything else. "Look at that," he muttered. The only customer was a Western man, sitting at a table by himself.
Although Sabit would like all these places to disappear, he will probably end up disappointed.
Alcohol has increasingly seeped into Afghan culture.
Along the road between the cities of Jalalabad and Kabul, several stalls sell Heineken beer openly, near cases of soda. "No problem," one stall owner said, as a police officer walked nearby. "Foster's, Heineken, Beck's, whiskey, vodka. I have wine for women too."
Mmm--antiseptic and Pepsi
About six months ago, police in Kabul started checking cars for alcohol on a road leading to the tomb of a former king, one of the few recreation spots here. Near the tomb, people have left behind empty bottles of brandy, vodka and "96% Alcohol," an antiseptic that some Afghans mix with Pepsi, police said.
"You brought the freedom," officer Zarwali Jabarkhail told a foreigner asking about the search.
Many clubs that cater to foreigners try to maintain a low profile. But in late March, the Disco Restaurant opened in an Afghan neighborhood--as opposed to areas where foreigners live--behind a hospital. The new club hung a banner along the sidewalk featuring a half-naked dancing couple. Within hours, several Afghans complained, and the couple was ripped off the banner.
When about 20 Afghans tried to enter on the first two nights, they were turned away. Many in the neighborhood wanted to go to the Disco Restaurant, which serves no food, instead serving up music, liquor, disco lights, high school prom decorations and four Chinese women willing to dance with any foreign man.
Zhaogia Guo, who opened the club, said he wanted to make some money and give foreign men a place to dance. His club is the first so-called disco in the country.
"Because of Islam, maybe the disco is not yet possible," the club owner, who is Chinese, said. "But Afghanistan has developed very rapidly. Maybe people will accept it in the future."
Afghan Vice President arrives in Beijing
BEIJING, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghan Vice President Abdul KarimKhalili arrived here at noon Monday from Hainan, China's southernmost province, continuing his first visit to China as guest of Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong.
During his stay in Beijing, Khalili will hold talks and meet with Zeng and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan.
At the Boao Forum for Asia, Khalili met with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top advisory body.
Prior to his China tour, Khalili said to Xinhua he hopes China can expand and enhance cooperation with Afghanistan, especially inthe economic field.
"China is one of the successful nations in developing economy and it would be a huge contribution to rebuilding Afghanistan if it extends its experience to us and pave the way for our fast recovery," said Khalili.
The Hazara minority leader, who fought against former Soviet Union and later on helped the US military to oust the Taliban regime in late 2001, was sworn in as Second Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in December 2004.
Khalili is scheduled to conclude his China tour on Tuesday.
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