About 95 percent of polling centers are expected to be open for business on April 5, the looming Presidential and Provincial Council electiond day, according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI). If accurate, the estimate would mean more centers will be active in the upcoming elections than were during the 2009 Presidential vote.
“Out of 6,831 polling centers, 6,431 will be open and the Afghan forces will oversee security responsibilities,” MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. “Unfortunately, 414 polling centres will not be open.”
A commander of the Afghan army, Gen. Murad Ali Murad, acknowledged that security was the biggest challenge ahead of the elections but that everything possible was being done by the security forces to address it.
“We cannot say that security is not a challenge ahead of the elections,” Murad said. “We have visited most of the parts of the Afghanistan and the security issues were our focus…We will try tol solve the issues of the 414 as well.”
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) referred a list of at least 7,000 polling stations to security officials roughly 14 months ago and requested continuous status reports on them.
“414 polling centres in north, west, east and central region will be closed, but we hope to provide security for 6,431 polling centres to hold the elections,” said Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhil, Secretariat chief of the IEC.
Election officials on Friday said that further preparations, including the transportation of voting materials to the centers around the country, depends heavily on what was submitted by security officials in the final election security report this week.
The relatively optimistic security report submitted on Saturday, came six days after the deadline the IEC had originally given security institutions to finish their assessments.
Afghan security forces assumed the majority of operation responsibilities around the country in 2013 as they prepared for the full withdraw of NATO coalition troops scheduled for the end of 2014. Despite suffering immense casualties, the Afghan forces were applauded by NATO officials for their performance during last year’s fighting season.
Ultimately, the perception of security is thought to be as critical to the elections’ success as the actual presence of security. If people do not feel safe, the logic goes, they will not show up to the polls to cast ballots.