26 October 2009With just weeks to go before Afghans go back to the polls to choose between President Hamid Karzai and his challenger Abdullah Abdullah, the United Nations said today it wants to see a “better and cleaner” election in the 7 November run-off. “We want to see less fraud in the run-off,” Aleem Siddique, spokesperson for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a news conference in the capital, Kabul. He said UNAMA is supporting the efforts of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) – tasked with organizing the 20 August polls and the upcoming run-off – and other electoral bodies to help ensure a final outcome that both candidates can have faith in.“We are now weeks away from the run-off, and we want to see a better and cleaner run-off than the first one that we saw,” he stated.The run-off was announced last week after the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) found evidence of fraud in the first round of voting.Mr. Siddique reiterated that the elections and the run-off are an Afghan-led process. The UN is providing electoral support to Afghanistan’s electoral institutions, in terms of planning, logistics and oversight, through the UN Development Programme’s ELECT project.The IEC is currently reviewing the number of polling locations and staff required for the run-off. He noted that there is likely to be a need for far less staff in the second round, and the UN has received assurances from the IEC that certain categories of staff will not be rehired.“We expect the IEC will not rehire staff who have either not followed procedures correctly or were complicit in fraud,” said the spokesperson.In addition, it is expected that those staff who are unavailable to participate in the second round and those who choose not to work as part of the second round will not be rehired, he stated. “The significant reduction of staff we will see should reduce the opportunities for irregularities to occur or for potential or attempted fraud.”While challenges remain, Mr. Siddique explained that the run-off is going to be far simpler to implement than the first round as there will only be one election taking place between two candidates. “There will be no let-up on the part of the United Nations in supporting the electoral institutions in this country so we can get the best possible run-off that we can,” he pledged.