Sunday, November 22, 2009

Iraq’s Displaced Forgotten In Debate Over Election Law

Iraq’s parliament has spent months debating and negotiating over the 2010 election law. While it has discussed several issues such as the status of Kirkuk and voting for overseas Iraqis, nothing has really been said about Iraq’s internally displaced. The result is that many will likely be disenfranchised as happened in the 2009 balloting.

Recently, hundreds of displaced families protested in Diyala against the planned parliamentary vote. They said they would not participate because the voting rules were rigged against them. In the current election bill, Article IV says that displaced families can vote, but only in their original home district they were forced out of, and are ineligible if they transferred their food ration cards to another district. The Iraqi Election Commission has said that around 1 million displaced can vote under these regulations. The latest United Nations figures record around 1.6 million displaced, which means 600,000 people may be disenfranchised.

Another problem is that even those that can vote still have to register, and few have done so. In October 2009 the Iraqi Election Commission reported that only 20,000 displaced voters had signed up by then. The Commission said that it was setting up special teams to try to get more to participate. The same thing occurred in the 2009 provincial elections when the displaced were confused about the voter rules, and few registered. The result was that tens of thousands didn’t get to vote. That led to several protests.

Since there has been no real debate by Iraq’s politicians to correct these problems the same scenario is likely to play out in 2010. Iraq’s displaced are already facing a plethora of problems from findings jobs, housing, to getting services, now a sizeable number are probably going to be shut out of voting for their representatives for a second time.

SOURCES

Fadel, Leila, “Low turnout in Iraq’s election reflects a disillusioned nation,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/1/09

Naji, Zaineb, “Voter Apathy Among Iraq Displaced,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 9/24/08

Niqash, “election law text,” 11/9/09

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraqi Election Commission Urges Vote Law’s Approval,” 10/7/09

Al Sabah, “Many displaced families in Diyala boycott elections,” 11/17/09

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Return Update Iraq September 2009,” November 2009

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