First Published: 2009-10-22

 
Iraq MPs take aim at election commission
 

Iraqs electoral commission facing allegations of corruption, poor supervising of elections.

 

Middle East Online

By Faleh Hassan - BAGHDAD

IHEC officials have denied the accusations

Iraqs electoral commission is facing allegations of corruption and of poorly supervising elections, with some members of parliament calling for reforms that could delay the countrys January polls.

The charges were recently voiced in a parliamentary inquiry into the Independent High Electoral Commission, IHEC, which posed the most serious challenge to the bodys credibility since it was established in 2007.

Deputies who are sharply critical of IHECs performance want the commission overhauled and supervised, with some pushing parliament to hold a no-confidence vote against its commissioners this week.

But some analysts and political leaders said the vote may not be held because it could force the resignation of IHEC officials, creating turmoil in the commission and potentially delaying the parliamentary election.

If IHEC goes down now, there is no alternative or substitute except to create a new board of commissioners, which will take time, said Hogar Chato, spokesman for Shams, an independent Iraqi election monitoring organisation. This will force the election to be postponed.

United Nations and United States officials expressed concern a week ago that the January parliamentary election could be delayed due to a stalemate in Iraqs parliament over a new election law and proposals to overhaul IHEC shortly before the election. Parliament is expected to vote on the election law this week.

The parliamentary poll is considered an important benchmark of the countrys stability and democratic progress.

In parliamentary hearings on IHECs performance, members of parliament accused it of misusing public funds and making decisions that they said favoured Iraqs most influential parties.

IHEC officials have denied accusations of impropriety, including allegations that commission chief Faraj Haideri, a former official with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, accepted bribes from Kurdistan region president and KDP leader Massoud Barzani during the Kurdish parliamentary and presidential election in July.

Deputies also said commissioners used IHECs funds to purchase personal vehicles and furniture for their homes. Haideri told IWPR that all items were purchased and owned by IHEC.

The accusations concerning car ownership and the other charges are false, he said. They dont have any concrete evidence.

Haideri said the commission intends to file lawsuits against member of parliament Jamal al-Batik, who made the bribery accusation, and the Kurdish newspaper Hawlati for publishing the charge without providing a shred of evidence.

Nuri Osman, a senior KDP official and spokesman for the regions cabinet, told IWPR the bribery claims levelled against Barzani were unfair and completely baseless.

Barzanis office did not immediately return calls seeking comment. However, in a recent interview with the Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Barzani spokesman Fuad Hussein also denied that the Kurdish regions presidency offered any bribes to the IHEC, before or after the Kurdish regional elections this summer.

In addition, IHEC commissioners have been interrogated about Iraqs provincial council poll in February, including IHECs decision to reject recount appeals by losing parties and discrepancies between provisional and final results. Deputies said that over 80,000 ballots were unaccounted for in Baghdad in the provincial poll and raised concerns that ink on voters fingers could easily be washed off.

Several parties raised similar concerns about the IHEC shortly after the provincial council and Kurdish parliamentary and presidential ballots this year. Commissioners denied any wrongdoing, and the IHEC, along with some political leaders and independent monitors, said that the charges were made by coalitions that were unhappy with the final results.

While many deputies are critical of the IHECs performance, some believe that the parliamentary inquiry could be politically motivated to influence the election.

Sceptics argue that discrediting the election commission could help delay the poll or put candidates in a better position to challenge the results. They also say that members of parliament leading the charge can campaign as advocates of transparency and accountability two issues that are especially important for Iraqi voters who are fed up with corruption.

Sabah al-Saadi, chairman of parliaments integrity committee, defended the inquiry as a constitutional right practiced by members in accordance with their parliamentary duties and said it was essential to democracy-building.

Karim al-Yakoobi, a deputy with the Shia Fadhila party, spearheaded calls for IHEC to be investigated in April and organised a petition signed by 50 members to question the commission in July. The Fadhila party suffered heavy losses in the provincial council elections in January, losing ground to a coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Malikis Dawa party.

Yakoobi said the timing of the questioning, just three months prior to the parliamentary election, was suspicious but he defended the hearings as just.

The inquiry, which was broadcast on state-run television, shows that there are significant breaches in IHECs work, he said.

Yakoobi is leading the push for the no-confidence vote against IHECs commissioners this week. Other proposals include creating a parliamentary committee to oversee IHECs work and sending polling station workers to other provinces, which some believe could cut the chances of fraud.

UN Iraq envoy Ad Melkert released a statement last week cautioning parliament against making major changes to IHEC prior to the January poll, saying reforms would severely disrupt the ongoing electoral preparations to the point that it would not be possible to hold credible elections until a considerably later date.

He encouraged the assembly to wait until after the parliamentary election to evaluate IHECs performance, saying that with UN support, the IHEC should be able to deliver credible election results in January 2010 that will be broadly accepted by all political factions and the Iraqi voters.

IHEC commissioner Hamdiya Husseini told IWPR the commission was not concerned about a no-confidence vote.

IHECs election preparations are well under way and continuing, she said in a statement.

Faleh Hassan is an IWPR-trained reporter in Baghdad. IWPR-trained journalist Basim al-Shara contributed to this report from Baghdad.

 

Regime strikes in Syria enclave despite ceasefire call

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Egypt presidential race starts with Sisi likely to win

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Turkey says US embassy Jerusalem opening in May 'extremely worrying'

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus