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MAZAR-I-SHARIF (Pajhwok): Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials say half of the polling stations in northern Balkh province would stay shut on Election Day due to security problems.
Mohammad Ayub Bayani, IEC head for Balkh, told Pajhwok Afghan News that all preparations had been made for holding the September 28 presidential election in the province.
He said the commission had launched a public awareness campaign since last two weeks to encourage people to participate in the election.
He said they were trying to extend the awareness campaign to districts besides Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital.
However, Bayani said security problem in some areas of the province was an obstacle to the campaign drive. "There are a total of 315 polling stations in Balkh”, he said.
“Unfortunately more than half of our polling stations are currently fully or partially closed or are under high security threats, so half of our polling stations would be shut on the Election Day in Balkh,” he said.
Afghan forces have assured they would ensure security in some of these areas and pave the way for people to exercise their right to vote, he said.
Chimtal, Chahar Bolak, Dawlatabad, Shortepa, Shulgar and Zari are districts which are under high security threats, according to the IEC.
Bayani said materials for awareness and training of staff had reached the IEC’s Balkh office and sensitive electoral materials would be transferred to the province and districts in next few days.
In response to a question, he said holding election in unstable areas of the province in absence of observers would be a matter of concern.
Bayani asked candidates and electoral tickets to send their observers to polling stations which would be open on the Election Day.
About closure of polling stations due to security problems, Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, spokesman of the Shahin Military Corps in Balkh, said that they were trying to pave the ground for more people to participate in the election.
He said senior security officials from Kabul visited the province on Saturday and discussed improving security in Balkh ahead of election.
People in the last Wolesi Jirga election also feared insecurity but Afghan forces launched clearing operations in insecure areas and there was high turnout of voters on the Election Day, he said.
The IEC and the Ministry of Interior say 4,942 polling stations would be open for the presidential election across the country.

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