Election officials began tallying votes on Sunday from Iraq’s first elections since US troops departed, a contest that served as a key test of its stability amid a spike in violence. Attacks killed three people on election day, a fraction of those who died in a wave of violence preceding the polls on Saturday, which seemed generally well-organised. Turnout for the provincial vote was about 51 percent, according to officials from Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission. IHEC board member Gaata al-Zobaie said ballot boxes and tallies from polling stations were being sent to Baghdad, and they would be entered in computers to tabulate the results. But the credibility of the elections came into question, as 14 candidates died in attacks ahead of the polls and with a third of Iraq’s provinces – all of them mainly Sunni Arab or Kurdish – not voting due to security concerns and political disputes.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Iraq.
Iraqi election monitors on Sunday reported multiple irregularities in the country’s first provincial vote since U.S. troops left but were unclear as to whether results would be affected. In an initial report, two non-governmental organizations, Shams and Tamoz, said over 300 irregularities had been recorded by the seven thousand monitors they had sent across Iraq to cover Saturday’s polls. The vote was a key test of Iraq’s short experience with democratic elections because it was the first one run since the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011. Allegations of vote fixing are not uncommon following elections in the country.
Security concerns sparked by anti-government rallies in mostly-Sunni areas of Iraq in recent weeks could hamper provincial polls due in April, a top election official said on Wednesday. Muqdad al-Sharifi, the chief electoral officer of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), also told reporters that 131 candidates had been barred from the April 20 vote due to their ties to the Baath Party of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein. “We have a problem in some provinces where there is a political crisis,” Sharifi said, referring to weeks of demonstrations in north and west Iraq against the alleged targeting of the Sunni community by the country’s Shiite-led authorities.
The new head of the Iraqi High Electoral Commission IHEC, Sarbast Mustafa Rasheed Amedi says that the post he occupies is usually decided by political parties, and that he was the only contender for the position this year. “The post was in the Kurds’ share [of appointed positions],” he told Rudaw. “When I ran for the post, I met no objections and no opposition. No one else ran for the post. All seven members of the IHEC voted for me. Amedi says that as head of IHEC he has the powers of a minister and he represents the government and parliament within the commission. He also rejects claims that IHEC interferes in the election process in favor of political parties. “The results of the elections have not been manipulated and will not be manipulated,” he says. “Elections take place at the lower level, not at the top level. The IHEC only makes decisions. However, if at the lower level results [at one particular polling site] are altered, then all the ballots will be disregarded. We try to maintain the maximum transparency and integrity in our work.
Iraq’s parliament selected on Thursday the ninth and final member of the country’s new election commission that is to be in charge of the upcoming provincial and general elections. The 2013 provincial and the 2014 general vote are expected to shape Iraq’s future following the withdrawal of U.S. troops last December. The balloting will likely come against the backdrop of intense political struggles among Iraq’s diverse religious and ethnic groups. Lawmaker Muqdad al-Shuraifi, a member of the new election commission, said legislators on Thursday chose Turkoman representative Kulshan Kamal as the body’s ninth member.
In making the optimistic case for the development of democracy here, American officials typically point to the 2010 parliamentary elections, which were judged largely free and fair by international monitors including the United Nations. But with the arrest of the head of Iraq’s election commission, the prospect for fair elections has been thrown into question. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, center, in March. He has been seeking to consolidate control over the electoral commission. Faraj al-Haidari, chief of the Independent High Electoral Commission, spent most of the weekend in a jail cell after being arrested on corruption charges on Thursday. He was released on Sunday afternoon after posting bail of $12,500.
Iraq: Political factions accuse Prime Minister of ‘dictatorship’ after arrest of election official | Al-Arabiya
Key political factions accused the premier of moving towards a dictatorship with the arrest of Iraq’s electoral commission chief, a charge the prime minister denied on Saturday. Faraj al-Haidari, head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), was detained on Thursday for alleged corruption along with another of the body’s members, Karim al-Tamimi. Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr accused Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of being behind the arrests to obstruct the electoral process, joining other key Iraqi political actors who have made the same charge. “The one who ordered the arrest is, to be precise, brother Nuri al-Maliki,” Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in Najaf.
A judge from Iraq’s anti-corruption watchdog has ordered the head of the nation’s electoral commission and another member of the panel to be jailed until Sunday, a fellow commission member said. Faraj Al Haidari, the head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and member Karim Al Tamimi are jailed “until Sunday due to a decision taken by a judge from the integrity commission,” a member of IHEC said on Friday on condition of anonymity. The judge could also order an extension of their custody. Asked about the matter, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s spokesman Ali Mussawi said only that “it is a judicial issue related to the integrity commission and the judiciary.”
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called for a meeting of all political parties after a group of legislators asked for the dissolution of parliament and new elections amid escalating sectarian tensions. Talabani and parliament speaker Osama Nujaifi “agreed to hold a national conference for all political powers in order to resolve all pending issues,” according to a statement posted yesterday on the website of Talabani’s party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The statement set no date. Talabani will contact parties for final approval of the gathering, according to the statement.
Legislators from the al-Ahrar bloc loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said political groups were not able to reach solutions and called for the new elections. The bloc has 39 seats in the 325-member parliament. Tensions between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led allies and Sunni politicians have intensified since a warrant was issued last week for the arrest of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, on terrorism charges.
The Iraqi political bloc led by anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has issued a call to dissolve Iraq’s parliament and hold early elections, in a move that could escalate the country’s growing sectarian crisis. The Sadrists said Monday that new elections are the only way to resolve Iraq’s deepening political problems because the current government “cannot find solutions” for the issues that “threaten to divide” the country.
Tensions are rising after Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on suspicion of running a death squad. Hashemi denies the charge and fled to northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region to avoid detention. Mr. Maliki also asked parliament to fire Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. The political crisis comes amid a wave of attacks on the capital, Baghdad, by suspected al-Qaida-linked Sunni extremists.