Yassen Taha The second extraordinary session of parliament could not reach the quorum and was delayed for an identified time. However, what was exposed in the assembly through some parliamentarians have deepened suspicions concerning the election process, and the Ministers Council issued a decree to investigate the suspicions and fraud evidence, to leave the dossier open to an indefinite time. Around 11 million people took part in an election, deemed to be “the celebration of democracy” in a country where the constitution has imposed a parliamentary system. However, the increasing discontent voices, an influx of suspicion and complaints following the process, covered such a beam while the trend only turns out to be more visible each day. While this election in Iraq was the fifth of its kind since 2003, with the referendum on the constitution, such experience should have helped to enhance the arrangement. Appeals and complaints mount on the way the process is held each time to the extent where calls for its cancellation seem to prevail this time, to be replaced with a clean election. If proven, it adds up to the political instability and lays down a dangerous precedent for the future. It all started with the suspicion on hacking the electronic ballots, followed by sending the members of the Independent High Electoral Commission [IHEC] to the Integrity Commission, as they had failed to check and investigate the smart tech used in the ballot boxes. Such electronic ballot is the first time to be experienced throughout Iraq, based on the demand of the electoral law, they were imported by a South Korean company to expedite the announcement of the results. Costing 133m dollars, the announcement still took a week while many shortcomings and technical notes were mounting on the process, which led to a considerable amount of complaints, appeals, and criticism concerning the election fraud and shifting the results in favor of certain parties. Such a trend further weakened the trust of the voters, with the evidence of Kirkuk protests and strikes, along with Baghdad’s green zone, Muthanna province, Basra, and Najaf. Before the process, IHEC ascertained all parties concerning the preparations and smoothness of the process. However, the optimism fell short with all the obstacles and suspicions mounted following the process was held, to an extent where Adil Lami, the head of the IHEC during 2003 and the first election in Iraq said that the vote of PM Haidar al-Abbadi was not sorted. Due to inefficient preparations and training of IHEC members, he claimed, as he inserted his ballot in an inverted bottom-to-top way, the electronic system did not sort his vote. Complaints are not confined to the preparations and the arrangement of the election day, but also lead to the results and their announcement and the following due process. The electoral body’s failure to respond to complaints and appeals, closing doors on the inquiries of the political parties and even parliamentary committees, have increased grievances concerning the election results, according to a statement by the second deputy speaker of parliament, Aram Sheikh Muhammad, and an audio call from the rapporteur of the Integrity Commission Adil Nuri, published on Wednesday evening. IHEC finally decided to hand over the electronic results, the ballot box hard disk, to the political parties two weeks after the election, while such a step should have been taken in 72 hours according to the decree number 6 of IHEC, issued on 22 April, this also added up to suspicions and discontent with the process.
The electoral body’s failure to respond to complaints and appeals, closing doors on the inquiries of the political parties and even parliamentary committees, have increased grievances concerning the election results.After the mounting influx of complaints, IHEC decided to cancel the result of 103 ballot centers in the province of Ninawa, Salahadin, Anbar, Baghdad, and Erbil, along with announcing the pending investigation into 1,436 appeals and complaints in both the special and general elections. However, the discontent seems to be larger than such limited measures. In the advisory session of parliament on Thursday, Mashaan al-Jabouri claimed to have the video evidence of selling and buying votes in the ballot boxes in Jordan and Syria. Along with MPs, which number around 140, a member of High Commissioners Council at IHEC, Saeed Kakiyi, parted from his friends in the body and increased the suspicion over the process through numerous TV programs and statements. He insisted that the USBs used to save the results were 52,936 items, but 10,653 are missing among them, mostly in the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Duhok, and Kirkuk. According to Kakiyi, only in Kirkuk and from the total of 90% of the announced results, only 12% of the results had reached Baghdad. From the total of 2,146 USBs in Kirkuk, 1,887 USBs arrived at the principal headquarter of IHEC in Baghdad improperly. He was dismissed from IHEC for 60 days over such remarks, pending an ongoing investigation by IHEC. He also discussed that there was no equipment to compare the fingerprints, which opens the door to fraud, along with the lack of password to the central server, which makes it easy for hacking. Such claims also added further suspicions.
The danger is that the election might leave negative marks on the relationship and trust of people with elections and electoral change.In some previously ISIL-controlled areas, as Yezidi areas of Ninewa, many Yezidi voters eagerly went to the ballot boxes, but the opaque process left Sinjar, the principal symbol of Yezidi catastrophe, without a representative, the first time since 2003. Yezidi MP Viyan Dakhil from Ninewa held IHEC responsible for that, due to implementing the conditional voting and the disappearance of Sinjar IDP votes in Sinjar, which amounts to 80% of the residents, still in camps. She considered this to be despairing to the suffering Yezidi IDPs. Numerous monitors and some recent statements from the current speakership of parliament believe that what happened in the last election process might leave negative marks on the relationship and trust of people with elections and electoral change. It also added up to the fragile relationship of the different components of Kirkuk and Ninewa provinces, which might increase the further calls of a boycott of the election process, after many voters were dejected by the consequences of their participation. Meanwhile, the country is going to face another election, Governorate Council election. In 2010, around 62% of eligible voters took part in the election process, the figure decreased to 60% in 2014, while only 45% in 2018. In the capital, Baghdad, the turnout is 33%, which means just one million and 900 thousand people have gone to the ballot boxes among around 6 million eligible voters. The fear and concern are that such a low trust of democracy might increase in the local elections, to be held later this year. In the last session of the Ministers Council of Thursday, in which the representatives of the Judicial authority, intelligence, National Security, and Financial Auditing departments took part, IHEC was announced to be bound to hand over the electronic results to the political entities. In the same meeting, in which some experts took part, the lack of guarantee to assure that the electronic voting system cannot be hacked was verified, along with the acceptance of the appeals of the political blocs and forming an inclusive committee to investigate the results of the election and the alleged violations. The committee, formed by PM al-Abbadi to investigate the elections, is formed from many representatives from the security forces and intelligence, and the basis of their investigation is the intelligence and confidential information.
PM al-Abbadi’s committee for elections can investigate anywhere they want.Some jurists claim that the committee can keep their sources confidential, and they can investigate to verify their suspicions anywhere they want, or with anyone they want. According to the decree that formed the committee, IHEC is bound to handover all available information to the committee, and they have the authority to audit and investigate anything they suspect from IHEC, including the electronic system and all the equipment that was used in the election. Some of those who met PM al-Abbadi on Thursday claim that all or part of the election results could be disbanded through the investigation, a step which further blemishes the process following the alteration of the ranking of the winning blocs in the election.