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    Security remains the biggest challenge: IEC chief

    KABUL (PAN): The process for parliamentary elections set for Saturday is on track but security remains the biggest challenge, said Independent Election (IEC) chief Fazal Ahmad Manawi on Thursday.

    Nearly 60 percent of polling materials supply to polling stations across the country has been completed, Manawi told a press conference in Kabul, expecting the rest of polling centres would be supplied with the logistics before the voting starts.

    He said the supplies were launched five days ago and until now they had completed 60 percent of the process.

    Manawi said 983 polling stations would stay shut on the election day.

    On August 18, the election commission announced 937 polling stations across the country would remain closed, but the number later increased to 1019.

    Manawi said a number of polling stations were reopened, brining the number of closed polling stations to 983. He demanded the security forces to ensure security for voters, election staffs, and observers on the election day.

    He confirmed two election workers were killed on Wednesday in northern Afghanistan. "Unfortunately we received information that two election staffers were killed in Charbolak district in Balkh province yesterday and we condemned this inhuman and criminal act in its strongest term," he added.

    "All the electoral preparations which are in their final stages of implementation will be completed throughout the country on September 17 as initially planned," the IEC said in a statement.

    The IEC had already dispatched all sensitive election materials including the ballot papers. "The process of delivering these materials from the main office to provincial offices commenced on August 18 and was fully completed on August 29, 2010," it said.

    The further delivery of these materials from the provincial centers to polling centers commenced five days before the Election Day and was conducted under strict security measures.

    Up to date, 60 percent of materials had been delivered and it was expected the delivery of the remaining 40 percent would be completed by the end of Friday, the statement said.

    Security institutions after their thorough analysis, reported to IEC that from a total of 6,835 suggested polling centers, they would be able to secure 5,516 polling centers. From the initial lists, the security forces could not secure 1019 polling centers.

    "The IEC National Tally Center is located at the IEC Headquarters, and is established to receive all results from the polling stations across the country," it said.

    All sensitive forms will be processed at the National Tally Center and results will be announced at the IEC Media Centre as well as posted on the IEC Webpage, the statement said.

    In order to ensure transparency of the elections, accreditation badges have been issued to 15 domestic observer entities, 31 international observer entities, 39 national media entities, 49 international media entities, 10 political parties and 1662 Wolesi Jirga candidates. In total, more than 310,030 ID cards have been issued to observers, agents and media.

    The number of eligible voters has been estimated at 10.5 million with 12.5 million ballots printed.

    A total of 2,511 candidates are standing across the country, with 68 parliamentary seats reserved for women.