KABUL, 22 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), almost 80 percent of the country's estimated eligible voters have now registered to vote in the national polls scheduled for October.
As of 20 July, voter registration had reached nearly 8 million. Of this total, 59.2 percent are men and 40.8 percent women. A completion date for the registration process, which began in December 2003, has not yet been set, UN officials told IRIN.
According to UNAMA, registration figures from some remote areas will take a while to be received in the capital Kabul. Some challenges and concerns in the process were also raised.
"Despite this increase in the number of people registering, one of our major concerns is the unbalanced registration," UN spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in Kabul on Thursday.
He explained that voter registration in some areas of the country, particularly for women, was significantly lower than the national average. For example, in the south women's registration was only 20 percent, compared to the national average of 40 percent.
In order to address this situation, the director of the electoral secretariat, Dr Farooq Wardak, and the chief technical adviser, Prof Reginald Austin, went to the south and met the governors of Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz and Zabul provinces, as well as government and security officials, and representatives of Coalition forces and the electoral secretariat.
Three key problems which slowed down voter registration were identified, the UN spokesman said. These were security, the number of uneducated women in the country and insufficient numbers of educated women taking part in the process and assisting it, de Almeida e Silva explained.
On a positive note, he said that agreements had recently been signed to allow Afghans in Iran and Pakistan to vote in the elections. He said that, based on memorandums of understanding, the two countries and the UN had agreed to facilitate and support the organisation of an "out of country" electoral process.
In Iran this would just entail voting, as Afghans in that country went through a registration exercise in 2003. In Pakistan, both voter registration and voting would be carried out.
The activities in both countries will be undertaken by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB).
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