SULAYMANIYAH, (UNAMI Press Release) — Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) faces significant challenges but will be able to surmount them and deliver a timely, fair and transparent national election on 12 May 2018, the United Nations has said, pledging continued technical support to ensure an effective and credible process that wins the confidence of Iraqi voters, politicians and the international community.
The UN pledge of continued support came during a two-day workshop the IHEC held in Sulaimaniyah on 11-12 January to roll out countrywide preparations for the elections scheduled for 12 May 2018. Under the overall supervision of the new Board of Commissioners, the event was attended by IHEC national and field level directors. Thematic topics discussed included the use of new technologies, inclusive participation by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), special voting, public outreach and electoral dispute resolution mechanisms. The governorate Directors presented their operational and technical requirements and the challenges from their local perspectives, while the Board of Commissioners and national level directors presented the plans, timelines and measures for addressing challenges from the national perspective.
In light of the importance of the workshop in jumpstarting the electoral preparations, and the sensitivity of the items to be discussed, IHEC requested UN input and presence. They shared their thoughts with senior UN officials who attended, including the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq for Political and Electoral Affairs, Alice Walpole, and a senior team from the Electoral Assistance Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Addressing the workshop, IHEC’s Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Riaydh al-Badran, stated that the Commission “is fully determined and has the procedural, technical and logistical potential to conduct the elections in its scheduled date.”
The Chair of the Board of Commissioners, Mr. Muin al-Heitawi, echoed equal confidence, recalling that the commission had faced difficult tests in the past “but we are able to create the conditions to have the opportunity to conduct successful elections.” He argued for increased UN support, urging expeditious action to fulfill the requests made to the recent UN Needs Assessment Mission.
Highlighting UN commitment and support towards holding timely and successful elections, Ms. Walpole said “Our team of technical experts continues to stand ready to support and assist you.”
But, Ms. Walpole said, responsibility lies with the IHEC. “Your roles will be crucial in delivering a professional and credible electoral process. Iraqi voters, politicians and the international community are looking to IHEC. Their degree of trust and confidence in you will define their acceptance of the election results,” Ms. Walpole emphasised. “It will remain paramount for IHEC to demonstrate its readiness to deliver a robust and efficient operation within the current timelines.”
The Deputy Special Representative expressed confidence in the IHEC despite the significant challenges, pointing to Iraq’s successful record in holding elections under adverse conditions in the past, such as the terrorist Daesh’s presence in parts of the country in 2014 - and highlighting the need to plan for all contingencies by conducting a nationwide testing of voting procedures in advance of the elections to avoid any hiccups on election day.
Mr. Aamir Arain, Director of the Electoral Assistance Office, said the UN has received requests from the IHEC for more technical support. “We are ready,” he said, adding that some of the challenges in the 2018 elections range from ensuring a flawless electronic counting and result management in a single day, to the security of the process, in particular software and result transmission security.