U.N. To Help Organize Iraqi Elections Set For October

U.N. To Help Organize Iraqi Elections Set For October
February 15th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.N. To Help Organize Iraqi Elections Set For October

U.N. To Help Organize Iraqi Elections Set For October
New York Times
February 15, 2008
Pg. 8
By Alissa J. Rubin
BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Parliament, faced with a stalemate in appointing election commissions in the most populous provinces and accusations of overt politicization of the election process, announced Thursday that it would welcome the United Nations to play a large role in organizing the vote.
Under a new law approved by Parliament on Wednesday, provincial elections must be held by Oct. 1.
At a press conference, Staffan de Mistura, the special representative to the United Nations secretary general, announced a tight schedule for helping set up provincial election commissions and a plan to monitor their work.
“The most important posts are the ones in the field because that is where the elections take place,” Mr. de Mistura said. “The person needs to be qualified, chosen through a transparent process to show you, the Iraqi people, that the elections are transparent.”
The responsibilities of provincial commissioners include selecting polling places, providing and collecting ballots and transferring them to counting stations.
The problem is that many of the nation’s most powerful political parties have divided up most of the seats on the Independent Higher Election Commission, which oversees national election policy. That means there are few, if any, independent brokers overseeing the election process, according to Iraqi academics and lawmakers.
Some other parties are not represented on the commission. Neither are new political entities, like the Awakening Councils, the local, predominantly Sunni Arab forces allied with the United States that do not yet hold political positions and do not have the pull to get appointments.
At the provincial level, political wrangling has stymied efforts to appoint local election commissions, meaning that no one is in place in those provinces to administer the elections. The United Nations said Wednesday that eight provinces, whose residents account for about 80 percent of Iraq’s population, had not appointed local commissions.
The United Nations is responsible for assisting and supporting the election process under Resolution 1770, which was approved by the Security Council in 2004 and renewed last August.
Without the provincial jobs filled, it would be impossible to hold elections on the relatively tight timetable allotted, United Nations officials said.
To meet the Oct. 1 deadline, the United Nations will take a hands-on role and, if necessary, appoint qualified election commission officers at the local level.
The United Nations will immediately begin a broad advertising campaign in the eight provinces for the local election commissions. It plans to then forward the names of 15 qualified people from each province to Parliament, which will have 10 days to choose five to be commissioners in each.
Then, the Independent High Electoral Commission will have 10 days to select one of those to be the director. If Parliament or the electoral commission is unable to choose, the United Nations will select from among the nominees and put them in place on a temporary basis.
The entire process will “be closely monitored by the U.N.,” Mr. de Mistura said, adding that it would take 43 days.
At the same time, officials said, Parliament needs to work on an electoral law, because the current law does not reflect the situation on the ground.
Most importantly, a new law would spell out who is qualified to vote and where. Some two million Iraqis are displaced within the country, so a contentious question is whether they should be allowed to vote where they now live or in their home provinces, and where their votes should be counted.
“The I.D.P.’s: do they vote where they are now passing their time unhappily? And, where is their vote counted?” Mr. de Mistura said, referring to internally displaced people.
It would be “morally right,” he said, to let them vote wherever they are living but to count their votes in their home provinces, he said. He added that Parliament had not written that into law.
Parliament leaders agreed to the United Nations involvement because of rising criticism, especially by independent lawmakers, that the election process had been politicized.
There is also widespread discontent at the outcome of the last elections, which most Sunnis sat out. Now they are underrepresented, and only one Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, competed aggressively for seats on the provincial election councils.
“We want to assure the Iraqi people that this time the elections will be free and transparent,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Parliament speaker. “We will cooperate completely with the United Nations and prevent any violations.”

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