Iraq’s Election Leader Pledges to Fight Election Fraud |
BAGHDAD – Iraq is taking steps to close the loopholes and organize fair elections despite attempts to undermine the upcoming elections, the head of the Iraqi electoral commission said.
Judge Jaleel Adnan Khalaf, chairman of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission overseeing the October 10 elections, said in an interview with the Associated Press this week that he had identified and foiled attempts at electoral fraud.
“What we hear here and there is that citizens are selling their voter cards,” he said, referring to a way for candidates to essentially buy votes. “The commission has established strict regulations and rules. “
Next month’s vote will take place a year before the election date, following a promise made by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi when he took office in 2020. He seeks to appease anti-government protesters who rose up in October 2019 in Baghdad and southern Iraq.
Tens of thousands of young Iraqis have taken to the streets to denounce widespread corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds of people have died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds. Protests declined following restrictive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The elections are also being held under a new reformed electoral law that divides Iraq into 83 constituencies, instead of 18, which theoretically allows more independents to participate.
Khalaf said the commission received complaints in the run-up to election day, including incidents of parties using weapons to intimidate voters in addition to the sale of voter cards.
The legitimacy and transparency of the election were called into question with incidents of violence against activists and independent candidates on the rise, including a spate of targeted assassinations in the months leading up to the election. The death of Karbala-based activist Ehab al-Wazni has inspired many to declare a boycott of the election.
Despite Khalaf’s assurances, Iraqis remain very disappointed and many are not convinced that the political establishment can produce a fair vote.
Concerns are also mounting internally within the committee. An official said he knew members of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sanctioned militia coordination group, would vote with the general public on October 10, not October 8, the designated day for members of the forces. armies. The militia group did not provide information to the commission about their fighters, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The United Nations has expanded its electoral assistance to the commission to help promote electoral integrity in the eyes of the public. The 2018 election was marked by severe voter apathy, with just 44% of registered voters. There will also be 130 international experts who will monitor the poll, as well as 600 support staff.
There are 24 million registered voters, Khalaf said, with 3,449 candidates vying for 329 seats in parliament. Khalaf said the commission would fulfill its legal obligation to announce the election results within 24 hours of the polls closing.
The introduction of biometric voting cards is one way the commission hopes to be able to tackle electoral fraud. Electronic verification devices will also be used to identify voters and avoid double voting, which has occurred in previous elections.
Khalaf said 17 million Iraqis have received biometric cards, but 5 million will still use the old electronic voter cards, which only contain biographical data.
Steps are also being taken to avoid the errors of the 2018 ballot, the results of which have been widely disputed. A German firm, Hensoldt, has also been commissioned to audit the machines and software that will be used to count and compile the votes. A machinery audit was never carried out during the last elections.