MESOP : THE ROJAVA REPORT (PYD) – Work Around Elections Speeds Up In Rojava

24-6-2014 – The Rojava Supreme Election Board has begun preparations for elections in Rojava. Co-President of the Election Board Gülnaz Salih spoke with ANF about their work around the elections and the difficulties they have faced in preparing for this process. 

Recalling that the Baath regime had neglected to undertake a proper census and that its figures remain highly unreliable, Salih said that election lists would not be available until after a significant period of preparation over which a new voter roll would drawn up. The Rojava Supreme Election Board  is composed of 18 members – 4 Syriacs, 2 Arabs and 12 Kurds. In order to complete their preparations for the election the board is relying on support from local neighborhood and village councils, which will help them in their efforts to register all eligible voters. Salih also noted that the board was researching electoral systems in other countries, and in Iraq and Sweden in particular, in order to design an electoral model that might work for Rojava.

There Will Be A New Voter Roll

While asserting that a new census was impossible under current conditions, Salih explained that a new voter roll would be draw up through grassroots organizing, saying “we have not completed a new census. Nor will we take the regime’s old census as a starting point. Using the resources of our city and neighborhood councils, our municipalities and our people’s houses will go from house to house to draw up a new voter roll. We have developed voting papers. Within a short time we will distribute these to the cities and various other places. Everyone over the age of 18 will be registered. These voting cards will also have identity numbers. The birthdates of voters and other information will be compiled in a voting registry.

Citizens Of The Cantons Will Be Able To Vote

Gülnaz Salih affirmed that only citizens of the canton would be allowed to vote and that those who had migrated would not have such a right, saying “those of our compatriots who have migrated abroad will not be able to vote while they have not registered with their names and identity cards. Citizens of Syria who are registered in cities outside of Afrin, Kobanê and Cizîrê will also not be allowed to vote. However those who are living in the cantons and who never received Syrian citizenship will have their right to vote recognized. They will not be deprived of their right to vote.”

Salih also spoke of the difficulties created by the lack of communication between the cantons, but affirmed that work continued in all three cantons to draw up new electoral rules. Salih said that “we have a serious communication problem with the other cantos. We have not had the opportunity to meet face to face. But the High Election Board was first founded here [in Cizîrê]. We were somehow able to make sure that our work, electoral laws and the decisions taken here reached the other cantons. The other cantons will also form their own electoral rules based on their own experiences. At the same time decisions taken here will be taken as a foundation within the other cantons.

We Have A 20-Person Quota For Independents

Salih spoke of the necessity for any party wanting to take part in the election to win approval from the legislative assembly, saying “we have prepared a separate list for independents to enter the election. We have two lists. One is for those who will enter the election as members of political parties and the other is for independents. In fact there is already a law passed by the legislative assembly which has set aside 20 seats for independents.”

Cooperation Between Election Board And Assembly

Salih affirmed that there was cooperation between the High Election Board and the Legislative Assembly but stressed that this did not to extend beyond what was necessary to organize the elections, saying “there is no question of this being dependent relationship. There is a condition that one must be 18 to vote and 22 to be elected. It is enough that one is literate. There is no requirement that one must have graduated from a university or possess a diploma. They will be registered in cities within the canton and will not be members of an armed organization or a judicial body. If they are and wish to occupy an elected position then they must resign.”

The Legal Framework For The Elections Is Ready

Following the approval of the Election Law and the Law on Political Parties by the Legislative Council in May Salih stressed that the foundations for an election had already been laid, saying the government will decide on the election date. According to the election laws the decision to hold an election must be announced at least a month before. Next week we will be begin to prepare voters rolls and complete voter registration.” Salih also said that those living abroad would be able to return and vote until the day of the election, saying “in order for voters returning to Rojava to be able to vote they can bring their identity card and number to the closest election office and register up until the last day.”

We Will Invite Regional And International Observers

Gülnaz Salih affirmed that they would invite regional and international observers to confirm that the elections take place in a democratic and transparent fashion, saying “the commissions that will stand by our polling stations, oversee the process and count the votes will be announced three days before the election and be formed of three people. There will also be members of political parties allowed to observe the the voting process. In fact we have invited international observers to be ready to observe our elections.”