Iraq’s Abadi: I take re­spon­si­bil­ity for en­sur­ing next month’s poll is fair and just

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - MINA ALDROUBI

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al Abadi has promised to en­sure a fair elec­tion next month af­ter rais­ing doubts about the coun­try’s elec­toral body.

“The In­de­pen­dent High Elec­toral Com­mis­sion con­tains many prob­lems,” Mr Al Abadi said in Bagh­dad on Sun­day.

He said there was noth­ing in­de­pen­dent about the com­mis­sion and that the Iraqi Par­lia­ment, which se­lected the panel, would be re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing the elec­toral process was un­bi­ased.

“It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to guar­an­tee fair and just elec­tions to the pub­lic and to sup­port the IHEC,” Mr Al Abadi said. He said his gov­ern­ment would fol­low up and sug­gest im­prove­ments.

Mr Al Abadi is seek­ing an­other term af­ter tak­ing of­fice in Septem­ber 2014, nearly four months af­ter the Iraqi army col­lapsed in the face of an ISIS as­sault, leav­ing the ex­trem­ist group in con­trol of nearly a third of Iraq.

Iraq’s frac­tured po­lit­i­cal land­scape since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion over­threw dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein has led to ac­cu­sa­tions of elec­toral fraud in pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

Al­most 7,000 can­di­dates are com­pet­ing for 329 seats in the May 12 gen­eral elec­tion, which will be Iraq’s fourth since the Amer­i­cans in­vaded.

“Given Iraq’s his­tory of elec­tion-sea­son in­sta­bil­ity, the com­ing elec­tions could deepen ex­ist­ing ten­sions rather than unify the coun­try,” the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group said in a re­port.

Iraq’s next gov­ern­ment will face the chal­lenge of re­build­ing the war-torn coun­try af­ter a three-year war against ISIS, and bat­tling en­trenched cor­rup­tion eat­ing away at its oil rev­enue.

The coun­try also faces one

of the world’s largest hu­man­i­tar­ian crises, with more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple dis­placed as a re­sult of the fight against ISIS.

Politi­cians “must find a way for dis­placed per­sons to par­tic­i­pate with­out fear of in­tim­i­da­tion,” the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group said.

Iraq is also try­ing hun­dreds of men and women ac­cused of links to ISIS. Yes­ter­day, the Jus­tice Min­istry an­nounced the ex­e­cu­tion 13 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 11 con­victed of “ter­ror­ism”. They in­clude peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for car bomb­ings, killing se­cu­rity troops and kid­nap­pings, it said.

Iraqi elec­tions since 2003 have typ­i­cally been ac­com­pa­nied by vi­o­lence, with two at­tacks on politi­cians re­ported on Sun­day.

A car bomb­ing in Kirkuk, a con­tested multi-eth­nic city about 250km north of Bagh­dad, killed a per­son and wounded 11.

“A civil­ian was killed and 11 peo­ple were in­jured, in­clud­ing three body­guards, in the con­voy of Am­mar Ha­daya Kahya, a can­di­date for the Turk­men Front in Kirkuk,” said the head of the Iraqi Turk­men As­so­ci­a­tion in Europe, Sun­dus Ab­bas.

“Since 2003 we have been used to be­ing tar­gets, we don’t know who has been tar­get­ing our party mem­bers. This has been an oc­cur­ring case against the Turk­men in Kirkuk for the last 15 years. We be­lieve this is done to get us to aban­don our homes.”

Iraqi troops seized the oil-rich Kirkuk re­gion from Kur­dish fight­ers last year af­ter a vote for in­de­pen­dence in Iraq’s au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion.

Turk­men largely wel­comed the re­turn of gov­ern­ment con­trol, af­ter the Kurds took over the area amid the chaos of ISIS’s march across Iraq in 2014.

“The tar­get­ing of Turk­men has de­creased since Oc­to­ber,” Mrs Ab­bas said. “But we are an­tic­i­pat­ing fur­ther at­tacks.”

Since the re­turn of Bagh­dad’s forces, the re­gion has seen clashes be­tween Kur­dish fight­ers and Turk­men units of the Hashed Al Shaabi para­mil­i­tary forces, which are of­fi­cially part of the gov­ern­ment army.

Mr Kahya, the elec­tion can­di­date whose con­voy was at­tacked, is an ad­viser to Falah Al Fayadh, who leads the Hashed.

Also on Sun­day, Na­tional Coali­tion mem­ber Ab­dul Karim Ab­tan sur­vived an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt. Mr Ab­tan’s con­voy was shot at with si­lenced weapons in Dora district of south­ern Bagh­dad.


Work­ers yes­ter­day print posters of can­di­dates ahead of the Iraqi par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Bagh­dad

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