MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: EU mission presents final election report to Iraq

28.2.2022 – Julian Bechocha RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The European Union’s election observation mission on Sunday concluded its mission in Iraq, presenting its final report regarding October 2021’s parliamentary vote, while also highlighting recommendations for future elections.

The head of the EU’s mission, Viola von Cramon, said in a press conference in Baghdad that Iraq’s recent elections “were technically well-managed, competitive, and the largely calm electoral campaigns enabled voters to make informed choices,” while also noting the relative peacefulness and proper organization of the process.

However, Cramon criticized several “undue restrictions” implemented by the legislation on voting rights, addressing the negative effects of unregulated campaign spending, irregularities with announcing the results, as well as questioning the safety of freedom of the media and expression.

The EU deployed an election observation mission in Iraq for the first time last year. Around 80 observers arrived in the country in mid-September to monitor the preparations for Iraq’s snap elections, held on October 10.

The mission’s mandate was to observe all aspects of the electoral process and to assess the extent to which these elections comply with international and regional commitments for elections as well with Iraqi law.

Cramon, who is also a Member of the European Parliament, proposed a list of 23 recommendations for upcoming elections in the final report while emphasizing seven of the suggestions and considering them a priority.

“The priority recommendations ask to remove the requirement for voters to have full legal capacity and to remove unreasonable restrictions on the right to stand for election. They suggest the publication of progressive results during the tabulation process, publication of both preliminary and final results broken down by polling station, and establishment of clear deadlines and competencies about each distinct stage of electoral dispute resolution,” said the mission’s head.

When asked about whether the ongoing struggle to form Iraq’s next government would make people lose further trust in the process, Cramon told Rudaw’s Halkawt Aziz that “even in Germany, it took quite long last time to form a government.”

The delegation also proposed to introduce limits on donations and campaign spending, to accurately define and decriminalize defamation and legitimate information actions, as well as implement a “comprehensive data protection law.”

Iraq’s early vote was held in response to anti-government protests that shook Iraq in 2019. The protests forced the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, reforms to the electoral law, and an early parliamentary election.

Just over nine million Iraqis cast a ballot, which accounts for 41 percent of registered voters. Many voters stayed home and others reportedly spoiled their ballots.

The speaker of parliament was elected last month but Iraq has so far failed to vote in a president amid rising tensions between political parties.