26 September 2021
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Iraq officials vow election will take place on time despite sabotage attempts

Thursday, 09 September 2021 02:17
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein (R) and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy give a joint news conference at Baghdad International Airport, September 6, 2021. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein (R) and Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy give a joint news conference at Baghdad International Airport, September 6, 2021.

Calls to boycott the vote have increased as the election draws closer, especially among young people.

BAGHDAD--The European Union and United Nations will deploy observers to monitor Iraq’s parliamentary election next month, saying Tuesday they hope voting will not be tainted by fraud and abstention.

“Our purpose is to do whatever we can in order that the electoral process be as good as possible,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference in Baghdad.

He said the EU observer mission for the October 10 election would be in Iraq a month before polling day and would stay for another month afterwards.

The UN’s top representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, told a separate news conference that the world body would also deploy a large monitoring team.

“In fact this is one of the UN’s largest electoral assistance projects worldwide with five times as many UN personnel as in 2018,” she said.

Hennis-Plasschaert urged Iraqis not to boycott the vote, which she hoped would be “credible” and called on “political forces and candidates to collectively refrain from any attempt to force or distort election resources.”

Iraq has requested UN monitoring on election day and the UN is also helping Iraq’s High Electoral Commission, the official body that oversees polls.

Hennis Plasschaert underlined that the running of next month’s polls will be very different from 2018, due to new strict measures. An independent audit firm will keep tabs on how votes are counted, she said.

To prevent fraud, provisional results will be shown at polls throughout the country. In the past, these were announced once the ballots had been transported and counted at the commission’s headquarters.

There will also be 130 international experts monitoring the vote, along with 600 support staff. To prevent abuse of electronic voter cards, they will be disabled for 72 hours after a person votes to avoid double voting, she said.

Past elections in Iraq have been marred by violence and vote-buying.

In the most recent legislative election in 2018, the turnout was 44.52 percent, an official figure that many believe was inflated.

Calls to boycott the vote have increased as the election draws closer, especially among young people who accuse political parties in Iraq of covering up and even encouraging political violence by Iran-backed militias.

Borrell said that everyone in the country demands elections, “but when we organise elections, the people say that elections are not good”.

“Our focus is try to help the electoral process be as good as possible,” he said.

Iraqi political scientist Saleh al-Alaoui warned to expect a low turnout, “not exceeding 20 percent”.

He said this would be “a consequence” of the protests that swept Iraq in October 2019 against corruption, foreign interference, poor public services and the stranglehold the main political parties have on the country.

An early general election was one of the promises made by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to try to meet the demands of the demonstrators.

Uncertainty emerged whether the polls would be held on time after influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would not contest them. But he has since reversed that decision.

The elections are also being held under a new, reformed electoral law that divides Iraq into 83 constituencies, instead of just 18.

The electoral law aims at breaking the monopoly held by blocs of parties that share power, by promoting independent candidates instead.

“Voters will vote for individuals, not just parties,” Hennis-Plasschaert said. “There is no place for any impropriety and that includes pressuring individuals to vote for specific candidates.”

She offered examples of the pressuring, including the withholding of salaries, buying and selling votes and intimidation of voters through threats of violence and blackmail. In a first, mobile phones and cameras “will not be allowed inside voting booths,” she said.

She also urged Iraqis, especially the disillusioned youth who make up 60% of the population, to vote and warned against boycotting the election.

“Boycotting elections will not solve anything. On the contrary, if you don’t vote, you end up boosting those whose positions you may oppose,” she said.

Source: Arab Weekly


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