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Sunday, 16 September 2012 03:00


 By Martin Kobler, Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, on the International Day of Democracy, 15 September 2012.

Over the past few years, millions of Iraqi men and women have made their way home from polling booths across the country, proudly displaying their fingers dyed bright purple by the ink that symbolizes their vital contribution to the political process.


I was heartened while reading accounts by young Iraqi bloggers of the excitement surrounding election day - the lively debate among groups of friends about who to vote for, and the emotion they felt at casting a vote for the first time. Referring to the provincial elections in January 2009, one young Iraqi wrote that his heart was filled with joy at the sight of an elderly woman, so stooped that she could barely walk, wheeling her husband in his wheelchair to the polling station.


In Iraq, as in other places in the region, the symbol of the purple fingertip in this new age of democracy has indeed moved some voters to tears. It is a powerful sign that the voice of the people is here to stay. But democracy in Iraq is facing some serious challenges.


Two important sets of elections are on the horizon – the March 2013 provincial elections and the general elections in 2014. These critical events are dependent on one entity, the Independent High Electoral Commission, IHEC.


The current IHEC was just extended for the fourth time and there is still no agreement on its composition. While these disagreements persist, the people of Iraq must wait for their next chance to dip their fingers into a vial of purple ink. 


Waiting for elections could have serious repercussions. Delays could lead to caretaker governments that cannot make the necessary decisions at this critical time in the history of this nation. The people of Iraq would pay the price for this - the progress made to re-establish security, to build schools, staff hospitals, develop social programmes and create jobs, would slow.


Iraq, with its promising democratic advances in recent years, cannot afford to lose momentum and to stumble at this stage. The decision-makers of Iraq owe their constituents strong leadership that rises above partisan or sectarian considerations. A truly independent IHEC whose Commissioners are selected on the basis of merit is their guarantee that this can happen.


Moreover, IHEC is one of the few electoral commissions in the region that safeguards a free, fair and transparent electoral process. A solid and credible Commission in Iraq would provide a model that could be followed elsewhere, a model that Iraq could be truly proud of.


In March 2013, I want to be able to log onto the internet to read the comments of young Iraqis debating with their friends over the best candidates. I want to see images on the news of women alongside their families, eagerly casting their votes. I want them all to have confidence in the democratic process in Iraq. This is the only way that Iraqis will be able to build a better future for themselves.


I strongly encourage the political parties to appoint the new IHEC without delay. I urge them to come to an agreement that provides representation for all sectors of Iraqi society. Above all, I advocate once again for the best candidates to be appointed, those who demonstrate competence, independence, and integrity.


It is the duty of those with the power to decide on the selection of the IHEC to act, now. It is their duty to guarantee Iraqis the elections that they deserve in the true spirit of the International Day of Democracy.

Last modified on Tuesday, 02 July 2013 11:59

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