Saturday, January 31, 2009

Iraq’s Provincial Elections And Abuses

Wednesday January 28 was the beginning of the Iraqi provincial elections. Prisoners with five years or less, hospital employees, and members of the security forces were all eligible to vote on that day. The Iraqi Election Commission held a press conference where they claimed 90% of possible voters turned out for this special polling, but the numbers they provided were not even close to that. They said 21% voted in Basra, 27% in Baghdad, 49% in Basra and Maysan, 50% in Najaf, and 55% in Qadisiyah. In the Karrada district of Baghdad for example, the Election Commission said that less than half of the 4,000 police on duty there showed up to cast ballots. The New York Times interviewed some of the officers who said that they talked with their commanders who told them their security duties were more important than voting.

There were also several dozen reports of abuses by those same security forces. According to an Iraqi organization to protect journalists there were 64 incidents where reporters’ rights were violated. In Basra, Babil, and Anbar reporters and photographers were beaten or stopped from entering voting centers by members of the security forces. In Basra guards beat 15 reporters and took their equipment when they tried to cover voting at the Ma’qal Prison. An Associated Press photographer said he was beaten and cursed at when he tried to take pictures there. The guards objected to photos that would show the faces of the detainees. The group was held for around 90 minutes until they were finally allowed to observe the voting. Even then they were still eventually told to leave by the Iraqis. In Baghdad the Army stopped 20 reporters from doing their job, while in Fallujah soldiers beat journalists that didn’t stay 100 meters away from polling stations.

Regular voting on January 31 seems to have gone smoothly. There was only minimal violence. Some voters were confused about which center to go to vote, but the stations were opened for an extra hour until 6 p.m., and a vehicle ban was lifted in some areas to facilitate participation. So far there have been no stories of abuses by the security forces, but the first reports of election violations have begun to trickle in. In Salahaddin fake voting boxes were intercepted near Tikrit. In Irbil, a voting center’s director filled out the ballots instead of the voters. That province is not holding elections, so the voters must have been displaced who are now living there. An Iraqi monitoring group Iraqi Ein said that soldiers from the 3rd Division stopped people in Mosul from voting. Before the election there were dozens of reports of parties trying to buy votes by offering money, blankets, etc. The actual results are not expected for several weeks.

Provincial Elections Facts And Figures

Elections are being held in fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. Voting in Tamim was delayed until a power sharing agreement can be determined. The Kurdistan Regional Government will decide when voting will be held in Irbil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniya.

Each province has at least 25 provincial council seats. There is one additional seat for every 200,000 people.

The Iraqi Election Commission will determine what parties win seats based upon a proportional system. They will take the total number of votes cast and divide by the number of council seats available to determine the minimum number required to gain a seat. The positions will then be given to the candidates from the winning lists with the most votes. According to the United Nations, this system is used in Germany, Macedonia, Spain and Bosnia.

There are also two quotas, one for women and one for minorities. Women are to be given every third seat on the councils. Christians will get one seat in Basra, one in Baghdad, and one in Ninewa. Sabean Mandeans will get one seat in Baghdad, and the Yazidis and Shabaks one seat each in Ninewa.

Number of Seats Per Province And Seats Set Aside For Women

Anbar 29 – 7 women
Babil 30 – 7 women
Baghdad 57 – 14 women
Basra 35 – 8 women
Dhi Qar 31 – 7 women
Diyala 29 – 7 women
Karbala 27 – 6 women
Maysan 27 – 6 women
Muthanna 26 – 6 women
Najaf 28 – 7 women
Ninewa 37 – 9 women
Qadisiya 28 – 7 women
Salahaddin 28 – 7 women
Wasit 28 – 7 women

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “90% turnout in Iraq’s special voting – IHEC,” 1/28/09
- “Serious electoral violations reported in Arbil, Tal Afar,” 1/31/09
- “Violations mar elections – network,” 1/31/09

BBC, “Iraqi PM hails vote as ‘victory,’” 1/31/09

CNN, “Turnout high in peaceful Iraqi provincial elections,” 1/31/09

Fadel, Leila, “A test for the vote,” Baghdad Observer Blog, McClatchy Newspapers, 1/28/09

Farrell, Stephen, “Under Tight Security, Elections Are Calm in Iraq,” New York Times, 1/31/09

Graff, Peter, “Early voting starts in Iraq provincial poll,” Reuters, 1/28/09

Ibrahim, Waleed, “Spotlight on vote-buying on eve of Iraqi ballot,” Reuters, 1/30/09

Al Jazeera, “Polls close in key Iraqi elections,” 1/31/09

Middle East Online, “Iraqi Candidates Making Free with Election Gifts,” 1/30/09

New York Times, "Electing the Provincial Councils," 1/30/09

Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Iraqis Stream to the Polls Amid Tight Security,” Washington Post, 1/31/09

Susman, Tina, “Iraq elections: Security tight for provincial vote,” Los Angeles Times, 1/31/09

Visser, Reidar, “Iraqi Minorities Get Special Representation in the Provincial Elections Law,” Historiae.org, 11/3/08

Williams, Timothy and Myers, Steven Lee, “Early Voting in Iraq Is Mostly Smooth,” New York Times, 1/29/09

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