Iraq-election-prep-650_416More than 600 accredited international monitors will observe Iraq’s general election on April 30th, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said Monday (April 7th).
“The commission has sent invitations to a large number of international institutions and bodies concerned with elections such as the Arab League, the European Union and representatives of foreign countries to take part in the forthcoming election monitoring operation,” IHEC media department director Aziz al-Khaikany told Mawtani.

“To date, the commission has accredited 660 international monitors who will take part in monitoring the Iraqi parliamentary elections and the elections for the provincial councils of the Kurdistan region, both abroad and inside the country,” he said.

Fourteen bureaus and five balloting centres have been opened in 19 countries to enable Iraqi expatriates to cast their votes, he said.

A higher committee headed by IHEC board chairman Sarbast Mustafa Rasheed will register the international monitors so they will be able to verify the integrity and transparency of the electoral process inside balloting centres, al-Khaikany said.

The committee also will facilitate the monitors’ work, he said, and has been meeting regularly with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to ensure they obtain entry visas to Iraq without delay.

The monitors will be provided with transport to ensure their ease of movement between the balloting centres, and security measures will be put in place for their protection, he said.

MEDIA ACCREDITATION UNDER WAY
As part of its efforts to ensure media coverage, the commission has started to apply a system which assigns Iraqi and foreign journalists special identification cards to allow them entry into the balloting centres and facilitate their work and movement, al-Khaikany said.

So far, he said, around 17 million electronic voter cards have been distributed to Iraqi citizens, out of a total of around 21.5 million.

“This ratio is a good indicator of mass participation in the coming elections,” he said.

The commission is currently observing and documenting election campaign violations, he said, noting that during the first week of the campaigning, which began April 1st, “a number of violations were recorded after which 18 political entities were fined”.

Political representatives and local civil society organisations should be encouraged to play a part in monitoring the safety of the electoral process, said Hawkar Jatto, director of the Shams network for election monitoring.

“The role of international monitors is very important in following up on the flow of the balloting process at voting centres, but this role, despite its importance, remains subject to specific locations for monitoring and also to security precautions taken to protect the monitors as they perform their work,” he told Mawtani.

LOCAL MONITORS ARE ESSENTIAL
These limitations require the attendance and contribution of local monitors, Jatto said, whether they are the agents of political entities or members of local organisations and institutions concerned with the electoral process.

This is particularly important given the competitive atmosphere among the candidates, he said, necessitates the increased presence of local monitors at the polls.

The Shams network is involved in a qualitative role in electoral monitoring through 140 local partner organisations which are drafting reports on the general electoral environment, political developments and the follow-up role of local and international institutions, he said.

“We also formed a committee of experts to follow up on the performance and work of the electoral commission within its special plans for the execution of the electoral process,” he added.

Iraqi MP Abdullah Gharb said he was pleased so many international organisations and entities had been willing and ready to take part in monitoring the progress of Iraq’s elections.

Participation by international monitors “is necessary to evaluate the electoral process in terms of its integrity and transparency and its organisational aspects, which will enable voters to cast their votes freely and smoothly, away from any pressures or influences”, he told Mawtani.
Source: Mawtani – Al-Shorfa