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Donkeys Key To Afgan Elections

 

Updated : Jul 30, 2009

More than 3,000 donkeys will be drafted in to help deliver millions of ballot papers to remote regions of Afghanistan for presidential elections.

Swathes of Afghanistan are inaccessible by road, forcing election authorities to come up with innovative solutions to get voting materials to the masses in time for election day.

Kai Eide, the top UN representative in Afghanistan, toured a hanger at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) headquarters in Kabul where he watched the papers being stuffed into bright blue boxes and loaded onto trucks.

"There will be 3,500 trucks involved altogether in getting the material to the polling centres. And 3,000 donkeys will get the ballot papers to the most remote areas," said Eide, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

He said the pack animals would be loaded up with the papers and dispatched to polling stations mostly in the north, where the mountains of the Hindu Kush cut off many residents from the outside world.

Eide called the operation "one of the most demanding electoral exercises I have seen" and praised Afghanistan for holding elections in the middle of a war, with Western and local forces battling Taliban insurgents.

"What makes it challenging is the infrastructure... and also the fact that the country is a country in conflict," the Norwegian diplomat told reporters.

Ahmad Bilal, IEC head of logistics, said helicopters would also be mobilised to reach the more remote areas and hoped to get all materials to polling centres by August 10.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and 80 percent of the people live in rural areas, largely without electricity.

Election officials also have to contend with fragile security in the south, Bilal said, where thousands of newly deployed US troops are trying to wrest back Taliban strongholds in harsh and baking desert.

The election will cost about 220 million dollars and is being bankrolled by Afghanistan's international partners.

More than 35 million presidential and provincial ballot papers are being distributed to 28,500 polling stations across Afghanistan.

 

 

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