| ||Election Officials Emphasize Impartial Surveys|
By Aazem Arash
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Election officials on Thursday said public surveys related to the spring Presidential and Provincial Council elections were good for informing the public, but cautioned that they must not favor a particular candidate.
There are less than 100 days remaining before election day in April. But according to a recent survey conducted jointly by the ATR and TOLOnews, public awareness about the elections, and confidence in the neutrality of the election bodies themselves, was low.
In the survey, respondents were asked about the "independence" of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). Most respondents were not convinced of their independence and many others had never heard of them at all.
The IEC has since acknowledged the derth in public awareness surrounding the elections, but assured that the a number of new initiatives are underway that could improve the credibility of the election bodies, and by extension, the election itself.
"Illiteracy remains one of the major issues in Afghanistan, despite that the commission strives to strengthen public awareness about the elections," IEC Secretariat Chief Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail said on Thursday. "We demand the tribal leaders support the Election Commission in its mission, and we also demand cooperation from the media."
Meanwhile, the ECC commended the surveys, and emphasized its commitement to an open hearing process for electoral complaints to improve the credibility of the elections.
"We try to provide genuine information and do our works openly before the general public, this is our commitment to the people of Afghanistan," ECC Secretariat Chief Nader Mohseni said. "We will strive to pursue our responsibilities with transparency and independence."
The recent ATR/TOLOnews survey was conducted on the basis of 2,603 telephone calls in all 34 provinces.
Another survey was recently organized by Democracy International, which weighed in on people's candidate preferences and general thoughts on the elections.