U.N. officials and Afghan human rights activists say that voter intimidation and insecurity are on the rise in Afghanistan, raising questions whether the landmark presidential elections set for October 9 will be free and fair.
A joint study conducted by the United Nations and Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says voter intimidation and insecurity plus a lack of information about democracy are likely to undermine the upcoming presidential elections.
In addition, the report says that local warlords, who control much of Afghanistan, combined with attacks by militants linked to the former Taleban regime, are limiting the exercise of political rights.
Presenting details of the report at a news conference Sunday in Kabul, the U.N. deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, said these shortcomings must be addressed before elections.
"There continues to be intimidation, especially in the south and southeast and east, linked to the offensive of those who want to destabilize the process by creating a climate of insecurity and also by intimidating voters," he said.
Taleban militants have vowed to disrupt the electoral process, and as part of that effort they have attacked election officials and aid workers in addition to their usual military and government targets.
Mr. Grandi says the report also recommends a massive information campaign about the election, including an explanation of a secret ballot.
"There continues to be a large deficit of information with respect to the electoral process," he said. "People do not know yet all the complicated details of the electoral process. And this lack of information plays into the hands of those who do not want the electoral process to succeed."
Mr. Grandi urged the international community to ensure deployment of independent observers to monitor the voting process in order to deter abuses.