Iraq prepares for 'free, fair' election process
By Khalid al-Taie
Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has completed preparations for the May 12th parliamentary elections and is monitoring the campaigns of candidates for any violations of the electoral law.
"We have completed all the logistical and technical preparations for the elections related to organising the voting proceedings, vote counting and [compilation of] the results," said IHEC electoral administration head Riad Ghazi al-Badran.
"All equipment necessary for the issuance of voter cards, biometric voter identification and accelerated ballot counting and tabulation have been procured, as have all necessary materials and supplies," he told Diyaruna.
The commission's 4,000 employees have been trained on the use of the equipment and on administering all election-related processes, he added.
The IHEC has "set up 1,079 election centres and 59,800 polling stations inside and outside Iraq", noting that voting abroad is slated for May 10th.
The IHEC began replacing paper voter cards with biometric cards in September 2014, and has so far issued these cards to about 21 million voters.
Voter cards also were issued to about 3.5 million citizens who were not of legal age to vote (18) in the previous election cycle that took place in April 2014.
These cards have been upgraded to the biometric identification system, which involved "taking the photo and fingerprints of the voter upon renewal of his card to prevent manipulation and fraud during the elections", al-Badran said.
As of November, 11 million voters had updated their cards, he said, noting that "we have completed the bulk of the upgrade process".
Voter cards have been issued to roughly 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are eligible to vote, al-Badran said.
IHEC staff also are monitoring the election campaigns of candidates and electoral lists, which were launched on April 14th, al-Badran said.
The IHEC's central committees and sub-committees are working to ensure there is no violation of the election campaign regulations (No. 11 of 2018), he added.
Fines of between two and five million Iraqi dinars ($1,687 and $4,219) were imposed on 80 candidates and lists for irregularities, he said, most of which were for launching elections campaigns before the officially scheduled date.
The IHEC is fulfilling its responsibilities "according to a phased timetable of operations", said Shams Network for Election Monitoring director Hogir Chato.
"The phase of approving the names of candidate entities has ended, and the commission is currently in the phase of monitoring the candidates’ election campaigns," he told Diyaruna.
This work will conclude the day before the elections, ahead of the voting process.
The election process
"The IHEC is relying on advanced technology systems in administering the election process, including upgrading voter cards to the biometric identification system to verify the voters’ names and personal data, control the counting and tabulation process and compile the results," Chato said.
The Shams Network "is responsible for following up on that timetable of operations, verifying the integrity of all procedural aspects of the elections", he explained.
It is concerned also with "monitoring any violation of laws and regulations by the candidates, such as hanging election banners in undesignated areas, exploiting a government position for campaigning, using hate speech, or inciting sectarian or ethnic strife", he added.
The IHEC is doing a "superb job in its preparations for the election process", said Nada al-Jubouri, a candidate for al-Wataniya electoral list, and is "making tremendous efforts to fulfill their obligations within the set time limits".
"Assurances were given by the IHEC and the government that they will make every effort to facilitate and ensure the conduct of a free and fair election that reflects the people’s will and aspirations."