Ninawa province has reopened its electoral commission office in preparation for the upcoming provincial elections after three years of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) control of the province.
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission's (IHEC) officially opened the new office on August 24th inside the presidential palace building in Mosul.
Mohammed Hani Shaker, director of the Ninawa province electoral office, told Diyaruna that his team has been working from an alternative location in Dohuk province in the Kurdish region over the past few years.
"Most of the office’s employees were displaced to other provinces and employed by electoral offices in the provinces where they were residing," he said.
"Today, and after three years of injustice and oppression, the electoral office is once again opening its doors in Mosul in time for the provincial elections scheduled for April 2018," he said.
The electoral office in Ninawa has already deployed 170 registration staff in 27 electoral centres throughout the province in order to register voters according to the commission’s biometric system.
Shaker said the opening of the electoral office in Ninawa will facilitate the voting process for residents during the upcoming elections, adding that the commission will adopt a state of the art approach to vote casting and releasing results.
Ninawa provincial council member Daoud Jundi stressed the moral and symbolic implications of reopening the electoral office in the province.
"This move means that the province will have managed to put behind it years of oppression, dictatorship, ignorance and backwardness under ISIS rule," he told Diyaruna.
The reopening of the electoral office means that Ninawa is administratively functioning, he added, which signals to residents that life is gradually back to normal.
Jundi said Mosul residents can once again be confident that they will be able to practice their democratic right to vote as enshrined in the constitution "just like any other Iraqi in other provinces throughout the country".
Life under ISIS has made people more aware of the kind of life they would like to have in the post-ISIS era, he said.
"Voters in Mosul will think long and hard before voting for their representatives based on the suffering and pain they had experienced under ISIS control," he said.
Still, Ninawa's local government expects a low voter turnout for the upcoming elections, Jundi said.
"The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is high and many cannot return in time for the scheduled elections in the first half of next year," he said, adding that this could adversely impact turnout compared with previous elections.
IDPs will not be the only issue affecting voter turnout as the security situation has not been fully stabilised yet in several cities in the province, said Ninawa provincial council member Hiyam Abdal.
Services also need to be resumed in the liberated areas, especially in Mosul, in order to facilitate residents' return, she said.
"Western Mosul is still deprived of services, which would hinder residents from going back to their homes and consequently affect voter turnout," she said.