Afghanistan announces date for parliamentary elections


The election commission in Afghanistan on Thursday announced dates for the much-awaited parliamentary elections in the country, a move welcomed by the UN mission in the country.

The country's Chief Election Commissioner Najibullah Ahmadzai announced that the elections for Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and Wilayati Shura (district council) would be held on July 07, 2018.

He urged the government to play its due role in providing funds and security, while appealing to the masses to take part and cooperate.

"There is a distinctive difference in holding elections during war and peace times. And, the upcoming elections are going to be held under the shadows of the war, so under such circumstances, the commission alone cannot hold elections on its own," Ahmadzai said.

According to the IEC estimates, these elections would cost around $200 million.

Five-year term of the current parliament ended in June 2015, but elections to choose new lawmakers got delayed amid debate on reforming the voting system among other issues.

Also on Thursday, Shah Hussain Murtazwi, spokesman for the president, said in a news conference the Afghan government is ready and willing to hold the elections, adding that all necessary preparations have been made in this regard.

He added the President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has held meetings with the representatives of political parties and civil society organizations, urging them to take part and ensure fair and transparent elections.

Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has welcomed the announcement.

"The people of Afghanistan have made clear their desire for credible, inclusive elections," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan.

"We welcome the IEC's commitment to a realistic date for holding parliamentary and district council elections, and to an improved and transparent electoral process."

Under Resolution 2344 (2017), the UN Security Council requested UNAMA to support Afghan authorities in the organization of elections, and to strengthen the integrity, sustainability and inclusiveness of the electoral process, the mission said in a statement.

Supporting strong and independent electoral management bodies will be a key feature of these efforts in the lead up to elections, it added.

"The Mission remains committed to working with Afghan institutions as they implement reforms to enhance transparency and build trust in Afghanistan's democratic processes.

"UNAMA encourages the Commission, Afghanistan's political leaders and civil society to unite their efforts in preparing credible parliamentary and district council elections in 2018., the statement concluded.

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