Press Conference by Dr. Farooq Wardak,
Director, Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) Secretariat
Wearer here today to remind our countrymen that we have now reached the second phase of our voter registration process taking us outside of the regional centers and into the provinces.
During the past weeks we have been busy preparing for this grand opening by sending out materials to our provincial offices, and by recruiting and training staff who will be working both in our provincial offices and in the 235 new provincial registration sites that will open up this Saturday [1 May]. As you know, this number will gradually increase to a total of 4,600 sites.
Each registration site uses a registration kit containing official documentation booklets, cameras, laminating equipment and other stationary items necessary for the registration teams to conduct the registration. Out of these 4,600 registration kits, 1,950 kits have already been sent out to the districts from Kabul and more are on their way.
New registration teams consisting of a team leader, a registration officer, a photographer and a laminator have been and are still being recruited and are receiving training by the Field Coordinators in the provinces. On Saturday, 1,880 of these will be working at the 235 registration sites across the country.
Mohave also been able to witness expanded civic education and public information in the provinces. Civic education teams have addressed people through different gatherings, explaining the process and also spreading messages through different media.
For those who wish to know the latest figures from the registration in the eight regional capitals: as of 28 April we have reached 1,873,415of the estimated 1.9 million who are eligible [to vote]. Thirty percent are women.
In the meantime, the data entry center here in Kabul continues to enter data from the registration sites. The center has been putting the registration data into a database that will be used as the official registration list for the upcoming and future elections in Afghanistan. Ninety-three percent of all the data sent from the regional capitals has been entered and the center is now prepared to receive the registration figures from the new sites opening up in the provinces.
Likewise, we hope that you, fellow countrymen are ready to go and register your names so that you can vote in the general elections this year. For those of you who have been waiting to register outside the regional capitals, this is your moment. We encourage both men and women to join and register your names so that you can be a part of the decision-making for the future of Afghanistan.
Question and Answers
Question: How do you distribute the teams and registration sites?
Dr.Wardak: When distributing our teams, we look at two factors, the population and the distances between them. This determines the number and distribution of registration teams all over Afghanistan. We have civic educators, national field coordinators, provincial coordinators and regional coordinators. Our colleagues are there assessing the situation and based on their recommendations, taking into account these two factors, we decide how many teams are needed in each place.
Question: What impact does the security situation have on the registration and electoral process?
Dr.Wardak: We will start registration when the area is secure. Our national security apparatus and our international security colleagues will work together to make the areas where registration is going to start secure. Once this is done, we go there. Where there is no security, we will find it difficult to conduct registration and elections.
With regard to the provinces of Zabul, Uruzgan and Paktika, we will launch the second phase of registration when the security situation permits. Many activities are ongoing to improve the security situation there. Our colleagues on the ground are assessing the situation and as soon as we get the green light, we will go and start our Programme there.
Question: Is 21 May still the last day for registration?
Dr.Wardak: This is not a deadline anymore. This was part of our original plan when we were to register people in the provinces during an intensive three-week period. Our new plan is to complete registration during May and June. If by the end June, there are still some areas where we have not been able to register our people, we will be able to extend the Programme beyond 30 June.
Question: What is the total amount of eligible voters?
Dr.Wardak: The figure provided by our Central Statistics Office says that there are 10 million eligible voters inside Afghanistan. Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan are not included in this figure. We are targeting 10 million as the total figure.
Question: What percentage are you aiming for?
Dr.Wardak: No electoral law in the world says what percentage to achieve. The target for us is 100 percent, and we have been able to achieve our target in the first phase of registration. As I said, this morning, we have been able to register 98 percent of the target. If we include the numbers registered today, hopefully we will reach100 percent. That is our ambition. Of course the situation, the context and all factors on the ground will determine the percentage.
Question: When will the electoral law be public?
Dr.Wardak: The draft electoral law is ready to be submitted to the Cabinet. In the transitional period, starting with the approval of the constitution to the opening of the parliament, the executive body also has the power and responsibility of a legislative body. The electoral law has to be approved by the President. The President thus has to issue a decree containing the electoral law. The draft will hopefully be presented to the president next week. We are expecting that by next week, the country will have an electoral law.
Question: Has the type of electoral system been approved yet?
Dr.Wardak: What the constitution says is proportional representation. A number of options have however been developed and evaluated and the one suiting the situation in Afghanistan will be adopted. I can’t say at this stage which system will be opted for.
Question: What is the role of your civic education and public information in this process?
Dr.Wardak: Civic education and public information are key elements of the voter registration process. Taking into account the infrastructure available in our country, it takes a long time for us to take our messages to remote areas of our country. Buts far, using the existing infrastructure, and using the existing civil society, and our media, I think we are not doing badly. We still have a long way to go though. My request would be for the mediator coordinate our efforts further and take our messages to the remote areas of our country. We have to inform our nation. We have to inform our women and men that they have to be part of this process if they want to bring improvement, development and sustainable peace to this country. The only way is to make our Afghan fellows, men and women, part of this process.
Question: Are you satisfied with the percentage of registered women?
Dr.Wardak: I don’t think 30 percent is a bad figure for a country that is coming from many years of war. Thirty percent women is not a bad percentage. But of course we are not saying that we are fully satisfied. We are trying our best to further improve this percentage, to make it 50/50 or even more than 50 since women probably constitute more than 50 percent of the population. But am not disappointed with having 30 percent of the women in the first phase.
Question: What is the likelihood that there will be elections in September?
Dr.Wardak: What keeps us alive in this country is hope. And am very much hopeful and confident that elections will take place in September. Election for the President and for the Wolesi Jirga will take place in September. I am very much hopeful and confident. But we will also need to look at the situation on the ground.
Question: How is the process of the demarcating the constituencies in Afghanistan going?
Dr.Wardak: This is the job of the Ministry of Interior. They will have to demarcate the constituencies. For the time being, altogether they are 249 members to the Wolesi Jirga. We will not be able to have 249 constituencies. There will be multiple constituencies. The number of provinces we had before starting the electoral law was 32, but now we have 34 provinces. Any additional province would complicate our life very much because we would have to recalculate everything.