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Afghanistan extends deadline for voter registration amid violence

So far just over 1.5 million adults have signed up to vote, a fraction of the 14 million the commission had hoped to register during the two-month process
AFP

Kabul (AFP) – A deadline for Afghans to register to vote in the October 20 legislative elections has been extended, officials said Friday, as figures show hundreds of civilians have already been killed or wounded in poll-related violence.

Enrolment for the long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections began on April 14 and was originally scheduled to finish in mid-June.

By Thursday, just over 1.5 million adults had signed up to vote, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told AFP — a fraction of the 14 million it had hoped to register during the two-month process.

“The election commission of Afghanistan has extended the voting registration process for one month,” the IEC said in a statement, without explaining the reason for the decision.

There are fears that a low turnout could erode the credibility of the elections, which are seen as a test run for next year’s presidential poll.

The vote was supposed to be held in 2015 but has been repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical issues within the fragile unity government.

The decision came as UN figures released Thursday showed 86 civilians had been killed and 185 wounded in 23 election-related security incidents since registration began.

Most of the casualties happened on April 22 when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration centre in Kabul, killing 60 and wounding 138, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said.

The majority of the casualties were women and children, the report said. It added that 26 civilians also had been abducted.

“I am outraged by these attacks deliberately targeting civilians seeking to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said.

Yamamoto urged the Taliban to take up Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s February offer of peace talks “to put an end to the suffering of the Afghan people”.

The Taliban and Islamic State groups have made clear their intentions to disrupt the elections.

Meanwhile, the IEC said it would allow voters to use a copy of their national identification certificate, or tazkira, to register.

There had been concerns that a sticker placed on people’s tazkira when they signed up could put those in restive districts at risk of being targeted by militants.

Stickers will now be placed on the copy, but voters will be required to bring their original tazkira when they cast their ballot, the IEC said.

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