Iraq Set to Vote in Local Elections

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Iraqi local elections are set for June 20 but some fear that a fraud operation is underway as part of an attempt to divide Iraq along sectarian lines.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Iraqi deputy prime minister who also leads the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, said he is concerned about electoral fraud in the provinces of Ninevah and Anbar. He accused his opponents of having “a clear project to divide Iraq.” Meanwhile, the United bloc, led by parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, was optimistic that the coming election would be better than the last. The electoral battle in Ninevah and Anbar is almost exclusively between Mutlaq and Nujaifi.

Mutlaq told Al-Hayat, “The security situation in the provinces is awful and many may choose not to vote.” He said he was concerned about fraud and pointed to the existence of “blank and unsigned forms.”

He added, “In the last cabinet meeting, we decided to give an official holiday for employees on polling day (Thursday) in order to encourage people to vote.”

He called on citizens not to be afraid and stressed that trying to scare the voters is part of a fraud operation by those who aim to divide Iraq and incite sectarian strife. He accused certain forces of previously practicing fraud and trying to do so again in this election. He said that those forces have a clear project aimed at dividing Iraq into federations, which is something that he rejects.

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Mutlaq said, “The broad participation of the demonstrators is an opportunity for them to have their demands met through the ballot box.” He pointed out that the chances of his electoral list in Ninevah province are very good if there is broad participation and that his list’s chances are also good in Anbar, also on condition of broad participation.

In Ninevah, 685 candidates are competing for 39 seats. The number of voters is 1.8 million. The number of electoral lists is 18.

In Anbar, about 900,000 voters will be electing 30 members. There are 39 polling stations and 99 voting booths in the province.

The United bloc, headed by Nujaifi, admitted that it would be difficult for them to win the majority this time as they did in the 2009 election, when they won 19 seats and were able to form a local government.

United MP Riad al-Dahlaki told Al-Hayat, “In Mosul, the security situation is unstable, which may make the citizens reluctant to vote. The demands of the demonstrators have not yet been met. So the overall picture is blurry. The election is happening in a time of calm and political harmony. We expect this election to be more transparent than the last one. … There is a political competition and the competing forces are of almost the same size. We expect the results to be close and that there won’t be a winner and a loser. Of course, we are afraid of fraud but it is not at the level of previous elections. We hope that the security forces treat everybody equally.”

On Monday evening, the Independent Higher Electoral Commission announced the end of the special voting process for the employees at the defense and interior ministries, jails, and hospitals in the provinces of Ninevah and Anbar, where the process went smoothly with no major breaches.

The commission said that the special voting process included more than 35,000 soldiers in Anbar and 51,000 soldiers in Ninevah. The soldiers cast their ballots in all provinces except Erbil. The commission also reported that the number of polling stations is 106 and that the number of polling booths is 166. The commission said that it had completed preparations for the June 20 voting.

Elsewhere, the election-monitoring organization Shams said that it recorded electoral violations. The violations ranged from names not being present on the registered voters lists and a lack of secrecy.

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Found in: security situation, security, sectarian, nineveh
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