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Election's done, now comes the counting

Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - In a cavernous metal shed on the outskirts of Kabul, Mohammad Salaiman slowly studied ballot after ballot, running his index finger down columns of names, photographs and symbols in search of a single mark.

Now that Afghanistan's first parliamentary elections in 36 years are over, more than 7,000 people like Salaiman are counting millions of ballots, each up to seven pages long, with observers monitoring every move. "From a logistical point of view, this election is massive," said Kabul province election officer Oliver Vick, who has helped organize votes in East Timor, Ecuador, Kosovo and Iraq. First came the challenge of getting ballots out across the rugged country despite the threat of attack by Taliban insurgents and transportation problems that prompted officials to enlist everything from helicopters to horses.

With the reverse process of getting sealed ballot boxes back to 32 provincial capitals for the tally, workers for the United Nations-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body began the count Tuesday.

Some observers say the size and complexity of the ballots may have tested the limits of voters in a country where more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate and national assembly elections were last held in 1969.

In Kabul, the seven-page parliamentary ballots are the size of a newspaper, with about 400 candidates listed in 21 columns. Next to each name is a number, a photograph and a symbol to ease identification.

"For some voters, it may have been difficult to find their candidates," said observer Mohammad Hasan.

Vick said he is confident the count in the capital will be finished by Oct. 4, the rough target set by organizers for full provisional results. They hope to release certified results by Oct. 22.

[Last modified September 22, 2005, 01:04:14]

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