UNDP supports Iraqis in electing their future government
Baghdad -- On March 7, Iraqis will vote for 325 members of the Council of Representatives, the nation’s parliament, from 18 governorate constituencies, the third election conducted since 2003.
In preparation for the elections, UNDP is providing support for the Out of Country Voting (OCV) programme of the Iraqi election commission Operation. The out-of-country voting will take place in 16 countries - Syria, Jordan, UK, Sweden, Germany, UAE, Australia, Lebanon, Iran, USA, Austria, Canada, Egypt, Netherlands, Denmark and Turkey. Iraqi High Electoral Commission (IHEC) Country Office Managers and UN technical advisors have been deployed to support the preparation and implementation of this operation. The OCV is to be treated the same as in-country, with votes counted against the governorate from which a voter originates.
Under the umbrella of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) Elections Assistance Team, UNDP has provided specialized technical assistance for the 2010 elections, including assistance to IHEC for drafting the standard operations for polling, which comprises measures to prevent, detect and address irregularities.
In addition, UNDP, together with UNOPS, has created a post-elections, long term programme to build the institutional capacity of IHEC developing the managerial skills, organisational know-how and strategic planning abilities. This will enable IHEC to become a leading independent institution with the appropriate institutional policies, personal, and knowledge base, fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Iraq to live in a democratic society.
After decades of one-party rule, the first Council of Representatives was elected in the 2005 elections, marred by boycotts by some important political groups. This weakened the representation of all constituencies in the Council of Representatives, nevertheless the lawmaking body has emerged as a viable locus for national debate, in keeping with its constitutional mandate.
The January 2009 Provincial Council elections marked a turning point in Iraq’s democratic process, notable for the broad participation of political groups, as well as the remarkable level of citizen security experienced immediately before, during and after the polling.
The 2005 and 2009 elections were conducted by the IHEC with substantial assistance from the international community. For these votes, UNDP, as part of the UNAMI–led Electoral Assistance Team, assisted Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission through a range of projects, including the provision of technical assistance and support for fair, safe and professional media coverage.
The 2009 elections were noted for the innovative public outreach campaigns launched by IHEC using new media tools, such as the IHEC website, blogs, SMS, and YouTube, as well as traditional radio, TV and print media.
International assistance has been scaled back as the IHEC has continued to develop its own capacities, and the 2010 elections will be a milestone for IHEC, as it demonstrates its capacities as an independent, specialized elections institution.
The March 7, 2010, election represents the next major step in the political course of Iraq’s nascent democracy. The electoral process has already registered some success in the operational readiness of IHEC. The final story will be defined by increased participation of all constituencies, the ability of IHEC to resolve disputes fairly and professionally, and the enhanced credibility that the Iraqi people will have developed in elections as a democratic tool for the citizens to elect their representatives for the next four years.
Facts and figures about the elections
• Iraq is divided into 18 electoral constituencies based on governorates. Each governorate represents one electoral constituency.
• The Council of Representatives will be composed of 325 seats, up from the 275 seats in the 2005 Election. 6,529 candidates were nominated by 86 political entities. All candidates are under an obligatory vetting process with reference to their educational background, affiliation with the outlawed Ba’ath party, or criminal convictions.
• Approximately 18.9 million voters have registered to vote. The IHEC will establish around 10,000 polling centers throughout Iraq. Each center consists of one or more polling stations, totaling over 50,000. Each polling station is expected to serve up to 420 voters.
• To increase the participation of eligible voters, special polling centres have been identified to accommodate Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who have registered with the IHEC to vote for the governorate from which they have been displaced.
• In support of the Out of Country Voting programme that will take place in 16 countries, IHEC Country Office Managers have been deployed to these countries, to support the preparation and implementation of this operation.
• A Voter Registration Update was conducted in August and September 2009 to give voters the opportunity to check/correct details on the Voter List. More than 574,000 voters requested services and over 935,000 visited voter registration centers for these purposes.
• An estimated 300,000 political agents and national observers are expected to participate in the election.
Prepared by Areej Al-Musttaf, UNDP-Iraq