| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Iraq election chief promises fair elections despite concerns

Iraq is taking measures to close loopholes and conduct fair elections despite attempts to compromise the upcoming polls, the head of Iraq’s electoral commission said.

Judge Jaleel Adnan Khalaf, chairman of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission overseeing the election on Oct. 10, told The Associated Press in an interview this week that it has identified and thwarted attempts of voter fraud.

“What we hear here and there is that citizens are selling their voter cards,” he said, referring to a way for candidates to essentially buy votes. “The commission has set strict regulations and strict rules.”

Next month’s vote is being held a year before the elections were due, in line with a promise made by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi when he assumed office in 2020. He is seeking to appease anti-government protesters who rose up in October 2019 in Baghdad and Iraq’s south.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi youth took to the streets to decry rampant corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds. The protests dwindled following restrictive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The elections are also being held under a new reformed electoral law that divides Iraq into 83 constituencies, instead of 18, which theoretically allows more independents to participate.

Khalaf said the commission has been receiving complaints as Election Day nears, including incidents of parties using weapons to intimidate voters in addition to the selling of voter cards.

The legitimacy and transparency of the election has been questioned with incidents of violence against activists and independent candidates on the rise, including a string of targeted killings in the months leading to the polls. The death of Karbala-based activist Ehab al-Wazni inspired many to declare a boycott of the election.

  • Associated Press