Delay in law approval to hurt poll process: IEC

 KABUL (PAN): Independent Election Commission (IEC) Secretary Ziaul Haq Amarkhel on Saturday urged parliament to approve an amended electoral law as soon as possible because any delay would negatively affect the poll process.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News during an interview the commission would not allow the workers who had public complaints against them in the previous polls to perform election duty in the 2014 presidential and 2015 parliamentary ballots.
"The early endorsement of the electoral law is in the larger interest of the country and it will help the commission continue its job without hindrance," Amarkhel remarked.
About a low voter turnout and the absence of polling stations in insecure areas during the polls five years ago, the official said they had released a list of 4,917 polling centres to the security organs to enable them to come up with elaborate measures so the Afghans were not deprived of their right to vote.
He insisted no area had been left uncovered in terms of polling stations.  He hoped security officials would be able to protect all polling centres and that people would throng the stations to elect a legitimate future government.
Amarkhel linked winning of all 11 seats in Ghazni province by members of the Hazara ethnic group during the 2010 parliamentary elections to insecurity and lack people's access to polling centres.
He added the commission, keeping in view the past experience, planned to launch a series of awareness programmes aimed at highlighting the importance of adult franchise and coordination with security organs to enable residents to access polling stations and vote for candidates of their choice.
About claims of widespread irregularities in the previous polls, Amarkhel said the commission could not overcome all challenges if it did not support from the masses, candidates, civil society and political parties.
Reminded that some election officials were supportive of certain political parties, he said the Afghans lived in a society where every individual was somehow linked to a particular group as a result of decades of war.
But he explained the election commission would prefer professional and impartial individuals to perform election duty and would not allow those having complaints against them.
To another question, Amarkhel said polling stations were being set up in government departments like schools and health centres so that the vote was not influenced by a particular candidate.
He said the new law barred individuals having a criminal past to contest election and that the commission planned to form a committee representing relevant departments to look into candidates’ record.
He said the panel was committed to holding the presidential and parliamentary elections on schedule and in line with the constitution. He said they had so far encountered no technical or logistical problem that could delay the upcoming elections.
He also said old voter cards could be used and new ones issued to those who had recently returned to the country or had lost their previous cards.