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Afghanistan Launches Voter Registration For Parliamentary Elections

Gulajan Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan

Afghanistan launched on April 14 its voter registration drive for long-delayed parliamentary and provincial council elections that are scheduled for October.

Over the next two months, authorities hope to register up to 14 million men and women at 7,300 polling centers across a country where militants control or contest much of the territory.

Gulajan Abdul Badi Sayyad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), said that the first phase of the registration will continue in provincial capitals for nearly a month before a second phase covering district centers and towns begins.

As part of electoral reforms after the fraud-marred presidential election in 2014, voters must register again and will receive new voting identification cards.

In early April, the IEC announced that parliamentary and provincial council elections, previously slated for July, would be pushed back to October 20.

Parliamentary elections should have been held in 2015, but they were repeatedly delayed due to security fears and unresolved disputes about election reforms.

President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to hold the elections for the 249 seats in the National Assembly before the presidential vote scheduled for next year.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Mohammad Yousuf Rashed, the head of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, an independent organization, said that of 7,300 polling stations due to be set up for the elections, 948 were in areas "out of government control."

Interior Minister Wais Barmak on April 14 said that maintaining security at voter registration centers and polling stations was a priority for the Afghan security forces.

“Some polling stations are in areas with high security threats and we have special plans for those areas,” Barmak said.

Highlighting security concerns surrounding the election process, four police officers were reported killed in an attack in the eastern province of Ghazni late on April 14.

Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said five other police were wounded in the assault on a checkpoint.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility, but the Taliban is active in the area and controls large parts of the province.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, AP, and Tolo News