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How independent is Iraq’s electoral commission?

Adnan Hussein

Published: Updated:

The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) of Iraq has faced accusations for not being independent enough, just like most other “indolent” institutions of the state.

These accusations should not be thought of as stemming from any hostility towards the commission and its constitutionally guaranteed independence, but are based on dozens of incidents which have occurred in every election.

It is certain that at least 99 percent of the Iraqis want the IHEC and other institutions to be really independent and reject transforming them from committees that protect voters’ free will into tools for corrupt politicians who wish to oppress this will, distort it and falsify it.

The evident bias

It does not seem that the IHEC, which was established six months ago, has broken free from the unflattering legacy of its predecessors. As we shall see even in the current campaign, the institution has shown some bias for some lists, especially those of influential parties. Here are some examples.

Article 10 of the electoral campaign regulations prohibits employees of the state departments and local authorities from exploiting their influence or state resources, means or apparatuses, including the security and military bodies, in favor of themselves or any candidate to serve any electoral propaganda or to influence voters. Article 11 prohibits spending on electoral campaigns from public funds or from the ministries’ budgets.

Dozens of Iraqi candidates blatantly violate electoral laws, most often these are high officials of the state

Adnan Hussein

However we see dozens of the candidates blatantly violating these articles and the IHEC has not disqualified them.

Most often those committing these violations are high officials of the state — including vice-presidents, current and former prime ministers, former deputy prime ministers, the current head of the house of representatives, current and former parliament members and other high-ranking state officials.

They travel in the governorates, districts and suburbs using government cars and planes under the protection of the state forces.

Violation of laws and rights

This is not only a violation of the electoral campaign system and electoral law, but it also violates two main principles of the constitution: equality and equal opportunities for Iraqis.

The election law prohibits any military personnel from running for the elections. However, we see candidates publishing their photos in military clothes referring to their military ranks and women candidates publishing with their photographs along with the photos of their military husbands and fathers in their military uniform.

The IHEC is supposed to deal with these cases as violations of the electoral law and campaign system, but it has done no such thing. It hasn’t done anything because these candidates are on the lists of powerful forces in the state – forces whose leaders do not hesitate to use state resources for their campaigns!

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.