Fifteen years after US President George W. Bush gave his “Mission Accomplished” address, Iraq continues its struggle for democracy. Regrettably, key institutions like its Independent High Electoral Commission have proven inefficient in laying the foundations for a thriving democracy. What is worst, they are failing to learn from their own recent experiences. In May 2018, Iraq headed to the polls for its first election in the post-ISIS era. What initially appeared to be a relatively decent election gradually emerged to have involved massive potential fraud, forcing a manual recount of the results of a failed electronic voting system. These botched elections cast into serious doubt Iraq’s ability to strengthen its own democratic institutions and conduct future election processes. The tragic episode of the 2018 elections could have had a positive spin, had authorities learned the lesson. However, the fact that they are mulling over the idea of using the same unreliable technology, is a sad testament to the struggle facing Iraq’s fragile, corrupt and inefficient institutions.
Following statements by the winning parties of the Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary elections welcoming the final results, trailing parties on Sunday rejected the outcome of the vote. At midnight on Saturday, the electoral commission announced the official results of the regional parliamentary election. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) lead the polls by a large margin, securing 45 seats out of a total 111 seats available, followed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) with 21 seats. The parties who rejected the results are the Change Movement (Gorran), winner of 12 seats, New Generation, which won eight seats, and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), which belonged to the Toward Reform Coalition that won five.
Iraqis named a president and a prime minister designate Tuesday, capping five months of halting negotiations that played out amid widening popular unrest and an intensifying rivalry between the United States and Iran for influence over Iraq’s leadership. Within an hour of Iraq’s parliament electing veteran Kurdish politician Barham Salih as president, he announced that he had asked former oil minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to form the next government. The selection of the men showed how the sectarian loyalties in Iraq’s Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab communities that have prevailed since the U.S. invasion in 2003 are breaking down, giving way to more-pragmatic coalitions that cut across sectarian lines.
The two major political parties in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region are crying fraud after Sunday’s parliamentary election, with one saying it will refuse to accept the results. Nearly 800 candidates were vying for 111 seats. Turnout is reported to have been modest even as Iraqi Kurds try to reassert their autonomy after a crackdown from Baghdad. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the major political parties, tells VOA it will not accept the results of Sunday’s vote. PUK spokesman Saadi Ahmed Pira charges the party’s chief political rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), of election fraud in two provinces under KDP control. Pira did not give specifics but said the PUK is demanding an investigation.
Iraqi Kurds voted on Sunday for a new parliament in their autonomous region, which is mired in an economic crisis a year after an independence referendum that infuriated Baghdad. Almost 3.1 million voters were eligible to cast ballots across three provinces in the northern region, where 673 candidates from 29 political movements contested seats in the 111-member parliament. Polling closed as scheduled at 1500 GMT and the results are expected within 72 hours. The vote passed off with only minor incidents such as gunmen trying to vote without the necessary papers. The electoral commission gave an official turnout of 58 percent of registered voters in Arbil, the regional capital and one of the three provinces which make up Iraqi Kurdistan.
A year after a failed bid for independence, Iraq’s Kurds will be voting again on Sunday, this time in a parliamentary election that could disrupt the delicate balance of power in their semi-autonomous region. With opposition parties weak, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are likely to extend their almost three decades of sharing power. But splits within the PUK present the possibility that Masoud Barzani’s KDP will take a dominant position in Kurdish politics, both in the regional capital Erbil and in the difficult formation of a federal government in Baghdad. The contentious referendum on independence in 2017, led by Barzani, promised to set Iraq’s Kurds on a path to a homeland.
Campaigning kicked off just after midnight on Tuesday in the Kurdistan Region parliament election campaign slated for September 30. Over 700 candidates are vying for spots in the 111-seat chamber where 11 seats are reserved for Turkmen and Christian minorities and 30 percent must be filled by women. The campaign had a hesitant start, delayed by a week amid reports that some parties wanted to postpone the vote that is already taking place 11 months late. Some candidates delayed creating campaign materials, fearing the process may be put off again. European allies told Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani they are “happy” the election is going ahead as scheduled.
Iraq’s Supreme Court has ratified the results of the May 12 parliamentary election, its spokesman said on Sunday, setting in motion a 90-day constitutional deadline for the winning parties to form a government. Parliament in June ordered a nationwide manual recount of the results, which were tallied electronically, after a government report said there were widespread violations and blamed the electoral commission. Yet the recount showed little had changed from the initial results as populist Shi’ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr retained his lead, positioning him to play a central role in forming the country’s next government.
Iraq’s top election body said Thursday a manual recount of votes from the parliamentary election in May showed almost no difference from the initial tally, clearing the way for political parties to form a government. Fewer than a dozen members of parliament out of 329 lost their seats in the recount, according to Iraq’s electoral commission. The ballots were recounted after widespread allegations of fraud in the election in which populist anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won a surprise victory. Those allegations paralyzed Iraq’s politics and increased popular anger, and the recount result is unlikely to restore confidence in the democratic process.
The United Nations on Monday hailed Iraq’s “credible” vote recount, which paves the way for a government to be formed nearly three months after polls. Iraq’s May 12 parliamentary elections were marred by allegations of fraud, prompting the country’s supreme court to order a partial manual recount. As an official announced the checks had concluded, the UN said it had observed the recount and found it to be “conducted in a manner that is credible, professional and transparent”. “We are very pleased that it’s been concluded and we look forward to the next steps in this process towards the formation of the new government,” said a statement by Alice Walpole, a UN envoy to Iraq.
Iraq: Election commission says election recount complete but cut short in capital over fire | Reuters
Iraq’s election commission said on Monday it had completed a manual recount of May’s parliamentary election but was forced to cut the process short in the capital because voting records had been destroyed by a warehouse fire two months ago. The recount was ordered by parliament in June after a government report concluded there were serious violations in an initial count using an electronic vote-counting system. However, within hours of parliament voting for the recount, a fire broke out at a warehouse where voting machines and other records from the capital were kept.
Iraq’s election commission ignored an anti-corruption body’s warnings about the credibility of electronic vote-counting machines used in May’s parliamentary election, according to investigators and a document seen by Reuters. The devices, provided by South Korean company Miru Systems under a deal with the Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC), are at the heart of fraud allegations that led to a manual recount in some areas after the May 12 election. The results of the recount have not yet been announced and political leaders are still trying to form a government. Concerns about the election count center on discrepancies in the tallying of votes by the voting machines, mainly in the Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya and the ethnically-mixed province of Kirkuk, and suggestions that the devices could have been tampered with or hacked into to skew the result.
Five election officials will be put on trial in Iraq in connection with fraud, including vote buying, during the country’s May legislative elections, a judicial official said on Saturday. The suspects were the heads of election offices in Salaheddin, Kirkuk and Anbar provinces as well as those who oversaw the voting in neighbouring Jordan and Turkey, Judge Laith Hamza said. All five have been sacked “and will appear before the courts” in connection with allegations of fraud, Hamza said. The decision to put them on trial has been taken following recommendations made by a ministerial committee, which issued a 28-page report after reviewing a series of complaints.
Iraqi authorities began recounting votes on Tuesday from May’s disputed parliamentary election, officials said, a step toward forming a new government after weeks of delays. Counting started in the ethnically mixed northern oil-producing province of Kirkuk, the election commission said, and at least six other provinces were expected to follow suit in coming days. Parliament ordered a full recount last month after a government report concluded there were widespread violations. As a result, political blocs began heated talks about the formation of the next government.
Iraqi authorities began recounting votes from May’s disputed parliamentary election on Tuesday, officials said, a step towards forming a new government after weeks of delays. Counting started in the northern oil-producing province of Kirkuk, a election commission source there said, and at least six other provinces were expected to follow suit in coming days. Parliament ordered a full recount earlier in June after a government report concluded there were widespread violations.
Iraq will begin a manual recount of votes on Tuesday from a May parliamentary election clouded by allegations of fraud, a step towards the formation of a new parliament and government. Only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud will be recounted, a spokesman for the panel of judges conducting the recount said on Saturday. “The manual recount will be conducted in the presence of representatives from the United Nations, foreign embassies and political parties; as well as local and international observers, members of the media, and the Ministries of Defense and the Interior,” Judge Laith Jabr Hamza said in a statement.
Judges appointed by Iraq’s top court said Sunday they would limit a manual recount of votes in a May parliamentary poll to districts where results were contested, in a new twist to the country’s electoral saga. The recount, demanded by the supreme court, “concerns only polling centres where candidates filed complaints to the High Electoral Commission, or in cases of official reports of suspected fraud in Iraq or abroad,” the judges’ spokesman, Laith Hamza, said in a statement. The court ordered a recount on June 21, in line with a decision adopted by parliament in response to allegations of irregularities.
Iraq’s Supreme Court on Thursday endorsed a manual recount of all ballots from last month’s national elections, but rejected the invalidation of ballots from abroad and from voters displaced by recent conflict. Authorities have been struggling to address allegations raised by underperforming parties that the May vote was marred by fraud. The court ruling concerned a law passed by parliament that mandated a full, manual recount of the vote, and ordered other measures that President Fuad Masum and the national elections commission described as political interference. Two-thirds of parliament’s current members lost their seats in the May polls, or did not stand for re-election. A warehouse storing ballots from eastern Baghdad was burned down days after the parliament filed the legislation. Outgoing parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri called it arson and said the fire was set to cover up fraud.
Iraq’s top court upheld on Thursday a law mandating a nationwide recount of votes in a May parliamentary election but ruled that the cancellation of overseas, displaced, and Peshmerga ballots was unconstitutional. Iraq, OPEC’s second largest oil producer, faces political uncertainty after the election, which was marred by a historically low turnout and allegations of fraud. Parliament, which had mandated the recount after a government report found serious violations had taken place, had also canceled some results such as overseas and displaced votes by amending the election law this month. The verdict from the Supreme Federal Court confirms the recount process, which was opposed by the elections commission and some parties who made significant gains in the election.
Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request by the country’s election commission to invalidate legislative amendments under which electronic vote count has been abolished. Last week, the Iraqi parliament amended the election law to adopt only the manual count of votes in the May 12 parliamentary election. The court “unanimously decided to reject the request to stop executing provisions of the third amendment to the election law,” Iyas al-Samouk, a spokesman for the court, said in a statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Tuesday he opposed any repeat of the May 12 parliamentary election, and warned that anyone who tried to sabotage the political process would be punished, after allegations of electoral fraud raised tensions. Parliament has demanded a nationwide recount of votes, drawing calls for the election to be re-run. Abadi said only the Supreme Federal Court could decide whether to re-run the vote, which was won by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s bloc.
A fire raged through Baghdad’s largest ballot storage site on Sunday, just days after the Iraqi parliament ordered a recount of May’s election results amid accusations of fraud. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the fire “a plot to harm the nation and its democracy.” “We will take all necessary measures and strike with an iron fist all who undermine the security of the nation and its citizens,” Abadi said in a statement. The fire was confined to one of four warehouses in Baghdad’s al-Russafa district, where 60 percent of the capital’s 2 million eligible voters had cast their ballots. The Interior Ministry said no ballot boxes were destroyed in the fire, which engulfed a warehouse containing vote-counting machines and other election equipment.
Iraq’s parliament voted on Wednesday in favor of a manual ballot recount after allegations of widespread fraud in the country’s recently held parliamentary elections, a lawmaker said, a development that could further prolong the process of forming a new government. Hours later, a pair of explosions ripped through a mosque in a mostly Shiite district in Baghdad, killing at least seven worshippers, including two children. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Parliament member Mohammed Saadoun said lawmakers voted on the election bill, which in effect constitutes an amendment to the country’s election law and also includes cancellation of vote results from balloting abroad and in camps for displaced people in four Sunni-dominated provinces. “This is meant to correct the election results and bring the political process in Iraq back on track after it was proven that fraud and manipulation of vote results took place,” he said.
Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraq’s High Elections Commission announced on Wednesday it was cancelling voting results in the recent parliament elections from more than 1000 polling stations, adding it would hold violators accountable. It said its teams scrutinized 102 stations at 10 provinces where vote manipulation was reported by political parties, adding that violations were verified. The commission added it voluntarily scrutinized 2000 more stations, out of which 852 proved to have witnessed breaches, hence cancellation of results. It clarified that 67 stations for expatriate voters also had their results cancelled due to violations, including in the United States, Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Jordan and Turkey.
Close to three weeks after parliamentary polls, confusion reigns in Iraq as allegations mount of election fraud even with negotiations to form a government well underway. Since the May 12 victory of anti-establishment electoral lists, long-time political figures pushed out by Iraqi voters hoping for change have called for a recount — with some even calling for the poll results to be cancelled. Iraqi authorities have agreed to review the results, but have yet to take any concrete measures. Experts say claims of fraud are more likely to stem from frustrated outgoing politicians, rather than any major electoral manipulations in a country determined to turn the page after a brutal three-year fight against the Islamic State group. In a surprise to many, the parliamentary poll saw populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s electoral alliance with Iraq’s communists beat a list of former anti-IS fighters close to Shiite Iran. “To cancel these results is not possible, it would lead to a crisis and perhaps armed clashes,” political analyst Essam al-Fili told AFP.
Iraq’s parliament successfully held its fourth emergency session to discuss election results on Monday, pushing the session until late afternoon while waiting for holding quorum. At least 165 lawmakers need to be attending for a parliamentary session to kick off legitimately. More so, the Iraqi parliament approved manual recounting of 10 percent of votes in the May 12 parliamentary election amid allegations of fraud, forgery and irregularities. If there is 25 percent difference between the results of the manual and electronic count, then all Iraqi provinces are to undergo a full manual recount.
The Iraqi parliament has urged an investigation into allegations of vote fraud in this month’s general election, passing a resolution seeking a partial recount. The non-binding resolution seeks to cancel ballots cast from overseas and within displacement camps inside the country and would require 10 per cent of all votes to be manually recounted. If cheating were discovered it could lead to a recount of all ballots nationwide. The move by MPs follows protests over alleged vote rigging on May 12. The proposed recount would be compared to electronic tallies, to address concerns that electronic voting machines had been hacked. “In case of discovery of fraud, then a recount would be carried out for all votes across the country,” Abdel Malik Al Husseini, spokesman for the speaker of parliament, told The National.
Iraqi authorities have launched an inquiry into this month’s parliamentary elections after intelligence services found that the voting machines used were vulnerable to hacking. The May 12 poll delivered a shock win for populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, who faces a huge task to form a governing coalition despite winning the most seats in parliament. But with the results yet to be ratified by Iraq’s Supreme Court, a government official told parliament on Thursday that intelligence services had conducted tests which showed it was possible to hack voting machines and manipulate the results.
On May 21, a group of Iraqi parliament members submitted a request to the speaker to cancel the results of the May 12 parliamentary elections. The group also called for dissolving the Independent High Electoral Commission, discontinuing electronic voting and reinstating manual voting and sorting, with many legislators saying the elections were sabotaged. The next day, six Kurdish parties of the Iraqi Kurdistan region threatened to boycott the political process if their demand to cancel the results in Iraqi Kurdistan and other contested areas is not met. However, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the two main political parties that came in first and second in the provinces of the region, did not join in on the complaints. On May 18, the Independent High Electoral Commission announced the results of the elections. It also said that ballots cast in 103 polling stations in five provinces — Baghdad, Anbar, Salahuddin, Ninevah and Kirkuk — had been annulled because of sabotage and suspicions of fraud. However, the commission did not say whether the cancellation of those ballots actually changed the results.
On May 12, Iraq held a remarkably successful and violence-free national election. A coalition of Shiite Islamists and communists led by Moqtada al-Sadr, running on a reform agenda, won the largest number of seats in the new parliament. Sitting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s coalition placed third. While the results have generated considerable optimism, allegations of widespread electoral fraud have also emerged in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region and Kirkuk. There have been numerous calls to address and investigate these claims, including from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In these areas, results favored two long-dominant parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). New parties and challengers widely expected to do well did not. These opposition parties claim to have faced systematic vote rigging. Combined with the low turnout, their disputes could cast doubts on the legitimacy of the election, with serious ramifications.