Insecurity looms over Afghan poll:UN

KABUL: Insurgency-linked insecurity is likely to keep some voters away from Afghanistan's landmark August 20 elections, UN envoy Kai Eide said Sunday, calling on the Taliban to let people vote.

The United Nations was, however, still hoping for "credible" presidential and provincial council elections, Eide told reporters.

Describing the vote as the "most complicated elections I have seen," the special representative said Afghanistan could not be expected to meet the elections standards of other countries.

"This is a country in conflict. If we mean freedom for all to be able to cast their vote, that is our ambition but you see how difficult that is," he said.

"If you talk about free and fair (elections) in terms of an established democracy, then I think that goes beyond expectations of a country like Afghanistan in conflict, (with) weak institutions, weak infrastructure."

Asked of the likelihood of the threat of violence keeping Afghans away from the polls, Eide said: "Yes, of course, I am concerned that the security will affect the turnout on voting day."

"Of course, the security situation will have a negative impact on the accessibility in some parts of the country."

He said some irregularities could also be expected but he hoped that this would be kept "at the level which will not affect the credibility of the elections as such."

The Taliban have not threatened to attack polling stations directly but have called on Afghans to boycott the elections, which they have labelled a US-orchestrated sham, and join the fight for the "independence" of Afghanistan.

A decree from the militia also called on its men to block roads to prevent voters from reaching polling stations.

The UN and Afghanistan Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) used the press conference to release a study of Afghan women taking part in the elections.

"Women remain disadvantaged in the context of campaigning, accessing voter registration, and seeking remedies for violations of electoral law and regulations," AIHRC chief Sima Samar told reporters.

In one example, a woman candidate for the provincial council elections in the northern province of Takhar was threatened and her campaign office was destroyed, Samar said.

Her house was also set ablaze, she said. "Even women cannot put up their posters, (as) their families or others will oppose that," she said.

Two of 41 candidates registered for the presidential vote are women, as are about 328 of 3,196 candidates for the provincial councils.