The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved an Iraqi request for a UN team to monitor parliamentary elections in October.
A resolution adopted by the council authorized the UN political mission in Iraq and UN special representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to “provide a strengthened, robust and visible UN team, with additional staff, in advance of Iraq’s forthcoming election, to monitor Iraq’s election day with as broad a geographic coverage as possible.”
Earlier this month, Hennis-Plasschaert told the council that the Iraqi people demanded these elections during mass protests in which some paid with their lives, and “now is not the time to let them down.” She urged Iraqis to uphold the integrity of the elections, saying the world will be watching to see that voting is free and transparent and without political pressure or interference.
Anti-government demonstrators took to the streets by the tens of thousands last year to demand political change and an end to rampant corruption and poor services in the country. More than 500 people were killed in the protests as security forces used live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowds.
Last July, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced that early elections would be held to meet their demands. But Iraq’s Cabinet voted in January to postpone the balloting for four months, until October, after the electoral commission sought the delay for technical reasons.
The elections, scheduled for Oct. 10, will decide the 328 members of the Council of Representatives, who in turn elect the president and prime minister.
Responding to the Iraqi foreign minister’s letter on Feb. 11 requesting the UN send observers ahead of the elections, the Security Council not only gave a green light for UN monitors but also authorized the UN mission in Iraq to provide logistical and security support to international and regional observers invited by the Iraqi government.
The council also authorized the mission and the UN envoy to “launch a UN strategic messaging campaign to educate, inform, and update Iraqi voters on election preparations, and UN activities in support of elections in advance of and on election day.”
The resolution , which extended the Iraq mission’s mandate until May 27, 2022, requested Hennis-Plasschaert to provide advice, support and assistance to the government and the Independent High Electoral Commission on planning and executing “genuinely free and fair Iraqi-led, Iraqi-owned elections.”
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council on May 11 that al-Kadhimi’s administration has worked “to fulfill its promise of credible early elections, and to maximize turnout at a critical moment in Iraq’s history.”
She called the elections “a top priority” for the US and the UN and said the Biden administration wants “a UN team sizable enough to deter fraud, increase turnout, and rebuild trust in Iraq’s democracy.”
The resolution does not state how many UN election monitors will be sent to Iraq, and Thomas-Greenfield gave no number either.
The US ambassador said a robust monitoring team is needed because “violence by armed actors against citizens, security forces, and journalists threaten to undermine the election.” She cited reports that militias are harassing activists, protesters, and people who criticize armed groups operating outside state control.