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Afghanistan: Elections

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many polling stations there will be in Afghanistan in the presidential run-off election on 7 November 2009; how many there were in the first round elections; and what steps his Department is taking to ensure that voting is free and fair. (296787)

Around 6,300 polling centres opened on election day on 20 August 2009. Polling centres had on average four polling stations within them—for example a school used as a polling centre might have had four separate classrooms within it, with each classroom designated as a polling station.

The number of polling centres to be used in the second round is currently being reviewed by the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Afghan Ministries responsible for providing election security, taking into account the advice of the Election Complaints Commission (ECC). Any changes to the number of polling stations will take into account the need to provide suitable access to voters, ensure security and mitigate fraud, as well as IEC staffing levels.

We have given £16.5 million to the UN Development Programme, which is responsible for building the capacity of the IEC to enable it to conduct credible elections. We are continuing to work with the UN, the IEC and the Afghan National Security Forces to ensure the second round of the Afghan elections can take place in a credible and secure fashion where fraud is kept to a minimum. Throughout the election process, we have encouraged candidates to adhere to Afghanistan’s Electoral Law and follow the process through, respecting the decisions of the IEC and ECC.

Following the first round of voting, the IEC and ECC successfully investigated and excluded thousands of fraudulent ballots. The final round of voting will again be held in challenging circumstances and will be rough and ready in places. Should fraud reoccur, despite international and Afghan efforts to mitigate this, these independent bodies will again work to ensure the result is a true reflection of the will of the Afghan people.