Iraq’s 2013 provincial elections now planned for April – or are they?

October 21, 2012 at 12:11 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment

niqash | Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | 18.10.2012

Finally it looks like things are moving on for Iraq’s provincial elections. A new management body has been elected and dates set. But there are still many obstacles, politicians say, and the elections may well be delayed a third time.

Iraq will hold provincial elections next April as planned, the country’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has said. The Iraqi Constitution says provincial elections should be held every four years and the elections decide who is running the provincial authorities in Iraq’s different states. The elections have already been postponed twice.

However recently two significant obstacles to the elections have been removed. Early in August the government passed a revised elections law – and this despite the fact that the Iraqi Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional.

And then in mid-September, after months of infighting, the new members of the IHEC, the body that oversees elections in the country, were selected. The commission is composed of four Shiite Muslims, two Sunnis, two Kurds and a Turkmen woman and the new head of the committee is a Kurd, Sarbast Mustafa Rasheed Amedi.

“We have proposed that elections be held between April 10 and 20,” Amedi said.

Nonetheless now politicians say they fear that the provincial elections may be postponed again. Most obviously there are a number of legal challenges to both the electoral law and the new committee’s make up that could delay the provincial elections again.

The former head of IHEC, Faraj al-Haydari, who was arrested on charges of corruption and then, more recently, cleared, is one of the doubters. “My experience at IHEC has taught me that holding any elections at all requires at least six months worth of preparations,” al-Haydari notes.

“This is not a game. This is a complicated democratic process.”

According to electoral legislation, there are several pre-conditions that need to be fulfilled. Firstly, electoral rolls need to be updated. Then polling booths need to be selected and organized and funds allocated to pay those manning the booths. And then finally rules for electoral campaigning must be observed.

The provincial elections are important because they will allow the different political blocs in Iraq to measure their popularity among voters. It’s widely expected that the votes they get in the provincial elections will be the same ones they get in the federal elections.

However there has been a lot of conflict inside Iraq’s political arena over the past year, with former alliances severed and new unexpected ones being made. For instance, members of the bloc headed by the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently joined opposition parties in attempts to unseat the Iraqi leader. All of which makes it hard to predict where allegiances will lie, after the provincial elections are over. Members of various political parties have said it is simply too early to form any kinds of alliance at the moment.

“When it comes to the provincial elections, it’s still too early, agreed leading member of the State of Law list, MP Ihsan al-Awadi. His bloc had yet to enter into talks or partnerships of any kind with other parties, he said.

“The current conflicted state of politics might well reflect on the provincial elections,” former MP, judge and legal expert, Wael Abdul-Latif, told NIQASH. “And that might lead to a further delay.”

Up until now it seems the Sadrist bloc has been the most organized, announcing that it will hold preliminary elections for supporters to choose candidates for the provincial elections.

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