U.S., Europe call on Iraqi parties to respect rule of law, integrity of electoral process

An Iraqi woman casts her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Basra, Iraq May 12, 2018. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The United States and Europe on Wednesday called on all parties in Iraq to respect the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral process, as Iraqi voters is to elect a new parliament next week.

Foreign ministers of the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland issued a joint statement on the October 10 parliamentary elections in Iraq.

They welcomed the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission’s (IHEC) preparations for the election, saying the election “is an opportunity for Iraqi voters to democratically determine their future.”

“We recognize the importance of this moment in Iraqi history,” they added.

“In response to requests from the Iraqi people, substantial resources have been mobilized in support of free and fair elections.”

The foreign ministers further said the UNAMI electoral assistance mission tasked with supporting the IHEC is the “largest of its kind in the world, with five times more UN officials than were present during the 2018 election”.

They added that the Iraqis now have an opportunity to exercise their “fundamental rights” to vote.

They also expressed their support for the Iraqi government’s efforts to ensure a “safe, free, fair, and inclusive electoral environment for all Iraqis, including women and youth, who have long faced violence and intimidation in the pursuit of reform”.

The foreign ministers of those counties said they also support the federal government’s to ensure that internally displaced persons can safely take part in the election.

“We call on all parties to respect the rule of law and the integrity of the electoral process,” they added.

Iraqi voters are to elect a new parliament next Sunday in the fifth such vote since a U.S.-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A total of 329 seats are up for grabs in the election, which was moved forward from 2022 as a concession to youth-led pro-democracy protests that erupted in late 2019.

There are fears voter turnout could drop below the 44.5 percent figure registered in 2018.

More than 25 million citizens are eligible to vote. They are supposed to present a biometric card for what was conceived as a fully electronic voting process.

However, some voters have not received the cards and authorities say provisions have been made to ensure they are not excluded.

More than 3,240 candidates are in the running, including 950 women.

One quarter of seats are reserved for female candidates, and nine for minorities including Christians and Yazidis.

A new single-member constituency system is supposed to boost independents and reduce traditional political blocs, largely centered on religious, ethnic and clan affiliations.

Two days before polling day, voting will be organized for security forces, displaced citizens and prisoners. This year nationals living abroad will not be voting.

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