“Expensive spending and buying votes” … Political money threatens “parity” in Iraqi elections

Iraqi electoral law has failed to set a ceiling on spending on election ads, which has opened the door for political money to tip the balance of some influential blocs and those in power over others, according to observers.

These elections were scheduled for 2022, but the date has been touted as one of the few concessions the authorities have made to tackle the unprecedented uprising, which erupted at the end of 2019, addressing the rampant corruption and mismanagement of public settings, and expose the lack of. of public services in Iraq.

On October 10, approximately 25 million Iraqi voters will be invited to vote from approximately 3,249 candidates vying for 329 seats in Parliament.

The law is not specified

Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission spokeswoman Jumana Al-Ghalai told Al-Hurra that “there is no provision in any law relating to the electoral process for setting a ceiling for election campaigns, so the commission candidate to do so. ”

The former head of the election administration in the commission, Miqdad Al-Sharifi, said in his interview with Al-Hurra website that “there was a draft law that stipulated it before, but it was not passed.”

The current commissioner in the commission, Imad Jamil, confirmed that the election campaign system does not actually set a ceiling on spending on it, but he pointed out that “the election law has seven paragraphs, from section 32 to 37, all of which are punitive. these activities restrict, “adding that” the electoral law The parties also monitor the sources of funds and financing.

He told Al-Hurra: “Not only do we rely on the election propaganda law in our work, but there are nine systems that regulate the voting process and elections in general, starting with observers, candidates and agents for election campaigns.”

“Monitoring finances when excessive”

Jamil explained that “most of the candidates are affiliated with parties, and their number is 2,300, and the independents are about 900.”

He stressed that “the law of the parties is subject to the control and resources of funds, financing, use of state resources and influence, all these matters are being followed up,” noting that the Commission has “monitoring teams spread throughout Iraq. amounts of 1,079 teams in addition to technicians in various governorates. ”

Some candidates benefit from others’ indifference to the elections

He said: “These teams report on the money spent and election propaganda distributed daily in Iraq and all constituencies.”

Jamil points out that “the spending of large funds in election campaigns is not monitored to the point of extravagance until the sources of funds have been monitored and monitored, because these are posters, which is a normal thing.”

But the head of the Association for Journalistic Freedoms in Iraq, Mustafa Nasser, told Al-Hurra that there are other laws, such as the Integrity Act, “but they are not applied on the ground. We have not seen politicians or parties have not been summoned to ask them about their sources of funding. ”

He added, “Most of the politicians in Iraq are now extremely rich, even though they were not rich just a few years ago, and the law does not hold them accountable. How does the law oblige them in election campaigns?”

Al-Ghalai also confirmed that the commission was already monitoring the parties’ sources of funding, but “we have no control over the election ceiling. It is usually a law that is supposed to be approved, and the commission only applies the law.” “

Asked if the lack of a ceiling for propaganda put the Iraqi elections ahead of the problematic role of political money and the preference of parties over others, Al-Ghalai said: “Certainly.”

Buying votes and boycotting elections

Observers point out that some candidates for the Iraqi elections are exploiting many loopholes and bypassing the laws, and that there are other ways to use political money in the elections.

The director of the Iraq-Australian Center for Studies, Ahmed al-Yasiri, told Al-Hurra that “all the existing blocs associated with the current parliament are using their presence in ministries, government departments and state cars for election propaganda, and it is clearly visible. ”

Nasser says: “At the level of the regions north and west of Baghdad, there is a use of political money and an exploitation of government capabilities by some candidates.”

He explains: “For example, ‘District 12’ (Al-Mansour and Al-Amiriya) has become a kind of paving, lighting streets and repairing electricity booths, with a supposed government effort, but some candidates say ‘We are the ones who fixed it. .

As for southern Iraq, Nasser said: “There is a significant incentive, such as buying voter cards, or enabling voters to get loans from banks, and promising to include them in social welfare and others. . ”

Nasser explains how to “buy” voter cards and says that “some candidates or those who work with them agree with citizens who are indifferent to the elections, to go … and give their votes to a certain bloc in in exchange for an amount of money from 50 thousand dinars ($ 30) to $ 200. ” He pointed out that “this is happening in many regions, which has shown many the lack of benefit from the elections and supported its boycott.”

And Agence France-Presse points out that the enthusiasm of the 25 million voters over participation seems weak in a country where about a third of the population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations.

A television program on the Iraqi Al-Sharqiya channel broadcast a leaked audio recording saying that a female candidate in the current Iraqi election was asking to collect the largest number of photos from the polls, and that the price would rise when a person bring photos. of the maps of his family and relatives.

The law punishes anyone who gives or presents to a voter or persuades him to vote for himself or for others in a certain way.

In turn, Al-Ghalay said that the Electoral Commission had in fact excluded one of the candidates “because of his involvement in the purchase of ballot papers, because he had violated the provisions of the election campaigns,” pointing out that “the Commission receives complaints, whether it be from committees, candidates, citizens or any party, but it must be Evidence is presented, and therefore action will be taken against all offenders.

Candidate exclusion mechanism

She stressed that “the Electoral Commission took measures, whether with a fine or imprisonment, and reached out to cancel the approval of a number of candidates due to their violation of the election campaign system and the provisions of the law, and for candidates who violated the election conduct document. ”

Under the penal provisions for election offenses, “anyone who hangs election banners outside the designated places shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not less than one month or a fine not exceeding one million, in addition to other penalties for those who infringe make on the election campaigns of other candidates, or use force against one of the candidates. ” .

Al-Ghalay said that “the Electoral Commission has formed a main committee and sub-committees in all the constituency offices, in addition to the fact that the Commission coordinated its work with the Baghdad Municipality and the municipal departments through a memorandum of understanding in order to to support and support committees in the follow-up to election campaigns, and the constituencies to follow up throughout Iraq, as we have coordinated.We worked with the Media and Communications Commission to support the Commission in the follow-up to the media and social networking sites. ”

She added that “these committees monitored more than 160 violations, which were submitted by the subcommittees to the main committee in the National Office, which in turn submitted them to the Department of Consultations and Legal Specialists in this aspect.”

She indicated that some offenders were informed of the removal of this offense, and they did so.

In the event that some candidates continue to commit transgressions, Al-Ghalay said: “The consulting department will submit its report and recommendations to the Board of Commissioners with a view to taking the necessary measures against the transgressors.”

And she confirmed that the commission has so far excluded six candidates, two of them for forged documents, two for violating the terms of election campaigns and two for violating the electoral code of conduct.

She added, “The Electoral Commission has excluded one of the candidates for violating the provisions of the electoral conduct document, which is an initiative of the President of the Republic whose provisions were drafted by the Electoral Commission in cooperation with the United Nations, which organize the election process, provide equal opportunities and prevent insults, slander and libel. ”

On Monday, the commission excluded the candidate and former member of the House of Representatives, Shaalan Al-Karim, from the election, “because he violated sections 10 and 11 of the electoral system related to the use of force and state resources. in his election propaganda, “according to Jamil, though” he has influence and weight in Parliament, and we have proved that the electoral system is being violated.

But the court returned Karim to the election on Wednesday after challenging the commission’s decision, according to Nasser, “although there is evidence and video footage of his use of public money in his election propaganda,” noting that he is close to the speaker . , Muhammad al-Halbousi.

However, in an interview via the NRT website, Al-Ghalay denied the news that Al-Halbousi was “pushing the Commission’s Council to reverse its decision,” noting that “the decision to exclude (which was the Commission was issued) is not final and is subject to appeal before the judicial body. ”

Equal opportunities. Publicity is not the only obstacle

The former commissioner, Miqdad Al-Sharifi, called for an end to spending on election ads, noting that “some candidates are based on an influential party that has power or a widespread media, and some others. candidates do not have these tools. ”

Accordingly, Al-Sharifi believes that “the ceiling set provides a single rule and equal opportunities, allowing the youth and women to compete.”

But Jamil sees the elections in which everyone is represented, and says: “The percentage of women candidates in these elections is 950, which means one third and more than the other third of the youth, so everyone is included in the elections.”

On the other hand, Nasser responds that the idea that one third of the candidates are women is mandatory because there is a quota for everyone.

As for young people, Nasser claims that “our problem with the law is that it does not allow young people to run for office in the first place. The law determines the age of not less than 35 years, while all parliaments in the world 25 years old and older, so I think the law forbids young people to run, especially And that the vast majority of those who have revolted against the current regime and authority since October 2019 were younger than thirty years old.

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