Ali Hiyani - Anbar Trading with voting cards, especially in some areas of Anbar, has become a hot business for some dealers and political blocs, despite harsh punitive measures of Iraqi High Independent Electoral Commission [IHIEC] and Iraqi authorities against it. Kirkuk Now’s investigation reveals since the commencement of election campaign up to now, hundreds of voting cards have been bought and sold, according to both those civilians who have sold their voting cards and dealers who have arranged it. Qusai Muhammad, a resident of Saqlawiya town in Falluja district [Anbar province], said, “I sold my voting card to a dealer, and I am not sure it goes to which party.” He obtained 100 US dollars per one voting card, “I sold my voting card, my wife's and two of my sons'.” Qusai’s excuse was “I am disappointed at elections, politics, and election campaign lies. I live in an unfinished house which is damaged due to wars, and cannot pay rent without receiving any compensation”.
I buy, at least, 25 voting cards on daily basis.Many areas in Anbar province, like some other provinces of Iraq, fell to the Islamic State in 2014, while the end of that organization was announced in those areas last year. However, the violence and confrontations have ruined service and housing sectors. Whatever excuse the civilians may use when selling their voting cards, it does not exclude them from the punitive measures of IHIEC and Iraqi authorities, which goes into 15 years in prison, despite financial charges. The charges cover not only civilians but also all political parties and IHIEC employees, which leads to exclusion and being barred from taking part of the process. Muhammad Salman, one of the dealers, says he buys at least 25 voting cards every day, “Some days, a person comes with 50 voting cards of all the family members and their children”. He noted that the deal changes from one region to another, but it is more common in poverty-stricken areas. People and IDPs vote in numerous ways, the major ones being through biometric voting cards, with photo and stamp of the voter, and the old electronic voting card, without a photo or voter stamp, the latter being traded with more often. Zuha Muhammad, an IDP resident of Habbaniya camp in Anbar who suffers from daily life hurdles, does not feel the election could change his condition. What occupied her is mostly the thought of providing for her children, three daughters and a son, after al-Qaeda killed her husband in 2006 and her house was destroyed later in IS battle in 2014. She only mentioned her family’s situation to say “I am ready to sell my voting card in exchange for the living expenses of one day.” Despite harsh punitive measures and constant warnings from the IHIEC, judicial and governmental authorities concerning the sale and purchase of voting cards, no such measures have been taken against such procedure in Anbar.
I am ready to sell my voting card in exchange for the living expenses of one day.Director of IHEC’s Anbar Office, Saeed Issawi, rejected the news of voting buy and sale, as he said, “No political party has filed a complaint at IHIEC with evidence, concerning voting card dealings. The news is only heard in the media [outlets] and social media.” According to the election law of parliament, any eligible Iraqi citizen can participate in the elections, and vote in a secret ballot. The voting cannot be conducted through representation, and no one else is allowed to vote in one’s stead. The buy and sale of voting cards is not only illegal but relieves the involved citizens from their own rights. Abdulla Muhammad, a resident of Rumadi, has sold six voting cards of his family for 50 US dollars per one voting card. He blames the financial situation following the IS war, as he is the sole provider for his family after his son was killed by the IS. He claims, “Someone from Hal [Solution] Party suggested the sale of the voting card for us, and we sold them to him.” Any political party, candidate or bloc, would be barred from taking part in the process after it was proven to be involved in the illegal buy and sale of voting cards, despite financial charges and trial. The leader of Hal Party, Muhammad Karbouli, rejects the claim that they traded with voting cards, and considers such claims as untrue, “The aim of such accusations is to distort the image of Hawiyatuna party and bloc in Anbar, which has a large popular base in Anbar and we do not need such disagreeable methods to obtain votes.” Early in April, prime minister Haidar al-Abbadi insisted that trading with voting cards is considered a crime and Ministers Council has decided to take harsh punitive measures, whether financial or imprisonment. Muhammad Salman, a dealer of voting cards, says his team is consisted of five people, trying to convince people to deal with voting cards, and they do not have any preconditions for any political party ready to buy them later. He said, “I sell them to anyone, so long that the financial due is large, with different political parties, including Hal Party and Nasr [Victory] Alliance of al-Abbadi, but my dealings are with individuals, not political parties.”
No political entity has filed a complaint at IHEC with evidence.The bloc leader of Alliance in Anbar rejects such claims and considers them to be the propaganda of those who fear the victory of their bloc in the elections, as they aim at winning the majority of the seats. Awward Jughaifi said, “We are innocent from such void and untrue accusations that we are facing in regards to the purchase of voting cards. Those political parties behind such claims are those which have lost their supporters and the people of the province.” In all Iraq, around seven thousand candidates, through 88 political alliances and blocs, eye on the votes of 24 million people to reach one of the 329 seats of parliament. Note: The names of civilians and the dealer in this report are fictitious, while their true names are kept secret for legal reasons.