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IEC To Open 323 New Polling Centers

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced plans to open 323 new polling centers across Afghanistan in order to compensate for the 414 centers now expected to be closed on election day due to serious security threats.

Spokesman of the IEC Noor Mohammad Noor said that although the new centers could not provide a perfect substitute for the threatened centers, as the new ones will be located elsewhere, he hoped they would help serve the ultimate goal of getting a high voter turnout.

Last week, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) submitted an updated security report to the IEC that maintained over 90 percent of all polling centers around the country would be open on election day. The 414 under serious threat, however, were said to be beyond hope given the small amount of time between now and then.

"When we received the security report from the security organizations that said they could not provide security for 414 polling centers, the leadership of the IEC decided to increase the centers, especially in secure areas," Noor said. "The 323 new centers will be for all provinces, according to proportion."

A total of 6,845 polling centers are expected to be operational for the Presidential and Provincial Council elections.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said it had received the list of new polling centers from the IEC and had already assigned personnel to begin making preparations and precautions to have them up and ready for voters on April 5.

"The IEC shared the list of 323 centers with us, we included them in our plans and we are working on providing security for them," MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. "And we will soon update the IEC about the security of the centers."

A number of election monitoring organizations have expressed concerns about the closure of several centers in single provinces, which they said might not affect the Presidential race, which is a nationwide election, but could likely skew the local Provincial Council elections for that province.

"In Provincial Council elections, each province is one electoral region, the people must vote in the same province they are from and they cannot not go to another," Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) head Faheem Naeemi said. "Therefore, the election commission should try to open centers new in the same province."

Tuesday, 21 January 2014, TOLO News

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