Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Abuses Of Iraq’s Voting Cards Likely In April Election

 
Every Iraqi election since 2005 has been tainted by accusations of cheating. Claims of missing voting boxes, stuffed ballots, etc. are constantly made after voting is completed, leading to endless demands for recounts. 2014’s April elections will be no different. This time one of the likely charges will be about abuses of the new electronic voting cards that the country’s Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) are using. For weeks now there have been stories that political parties are buying up the cards to abuse come April 30.
Rather than stopping cheating it appears Iraq's new voting cards will be part of the problem (Alsumaria)

Apathetic Iraqis and problems with the voter rolls offer loopholes for political parties to exploit the new cards. Shafaq News for example interviewed a member of the Election Commission in Kirkuk who said that voting cards were going for as much as $500 a piece. The article claimed that people who were not going to vote were willing to sell their cards. With voting participation at 50% out of approximately 20 million registered voters that provides a huge pool of people to purchase cards from. In another example, Niqash ran an article in April that included a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who said that parties in the northern region were buying up voting cards as well. Another area of potential abuse is the fact that Iraq does not have up to date voter information. There has not been a census for decades because of the political differences between the ruling parties. Instead the Election Commission relies upon information provided by the Ministry of Trade and the food ration system that it operates. There are plenty of reports about the problems this presents. The IHEC for instance, announced in March that it had withdrawn 32,000 voting cards that it found were for the deceased or duplicate names. There are likely several thousand more of these types of wrongly issued cards still out there, because of the flawed nature of the voting rolls. Ironically the Election Commission went with these cards to try to cut down on fraud and cheating. In October 2013 it signed a $130 million 5-year deal with a Spanish company to create the voting cards. They have to be produced with one other piece of identification for anyone to vote. If parties are dishing up hundreds of dollars however to buy them they will have the money to forge other ID’s as well. These are obviously huge problems which the IHEC is aware of, but has limited time and money to try to fix especially since the balloting is only days away.

The Election Commission cannot be faulted for trying to cut down on cheating, but it appears that its voting cards are not the answer. The Commission is handing out the cards throughout the provinces, but the only security imbedded in the system appears to be the second piece of identification that has to be shown. That should be easy enough to get around, and therefore any party that is inclined to can buy up cards from Iraqis who are willing to part with them. The question is whether this will lead to more abuse than is usual in the country during elections or if it will just maintain the current positions of the ruling parties who have the cash and determination to hold onto power.

SOURCES

Buratha News, “Election Commission withdraws 11,000 ballots for dead people and 21,000 duplicate cards,” 3/22/14

Hassan, Hayman, “iraq votes 2014: best laid enrolment plans wrecked by illegal trade in voting cards,” Niqash, 4/3/14

Al Mada, "Commission: we distributed 85% of voter cards and 6 districts in Anbar will be making their voices heard," 4/22/14

Shafaq News, “Heated race to buy voters’ cards in Kirkuk…price varies from 100 thousand dinars to $ 500,” 2/25/14

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