Some 850,000 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and Iran voted in Afghanistan's first presidential election on 9 October; a record in refugee election participation according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who organised the voting.
"IOM is very satisfied with the overall participation in both Pakistan and Iran," Peter Erben, director of IOM's Out-of-Country Registration and Voting (OCRV) programme, told IRIN from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday. "With only 78 days since the project was funded for registration and voting, we were able to implement the largest refugee election ever in history," he added.
Roughly 590,000 Afghan voters attended the polling stations in Pakistan, representing 80 percent of the 738,000 who had registered during the first four days of October. In Iran, where there was no pre-registration process since the Iranian authorities had completed registration in 2003, around 260,000 refugees participated in the polls, about half the eligible voters in the country.
Erben noted the celebratory environment during Afghanistan's first democratic elections. "Many people had tears in their eyes, many people cheered and, in general, many Afghans saw it as a celebration of a step towards democracy," he said, adding that people turned out in "extremely" peaceful lines to vote.
The IOM organised the "out-of-country" Afghan presidential election in both Pakistan and Iran on behalf of the Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). After voting, ballot boxes were taken to central secure locations from which they were flown to the Afghan capital, Kabul, for counting.
According to the international organisation, the election process in both countries was fair and "certainly acceptable", when considering that the first elections in any post-conflict country could always be problematic. The IOM official stressed that they had employed different methods to avoid multiple voting - a problem in Afghanistan itself on polling day.
In Pakistan, Afghans had to vote in the same station they registered and to show their registration receipts. In Iran, IOM had the existing documentation from the participants. This documentation was marked when people went to vote and, additionally, they were inked. "We do not believe we had any significant problem with double voting in either Pakistan or Iran," the OCRV director stressed.
Despite two reported security incidents in Pakistan, an attack on a police post the day before the polls and a small explosion 500 metres from a polling station on election day, the IOM official said they were fortunate to have had no significant security incidents on the day itself.
"Both the Pakistani and Iranian governments provided impeccable support for the election day," Erben said, noting the cooperation they had enjoyed during the preparation process and asserting that the level of security was sufficient on 9 October.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions