Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The IHEC Invents New Problems

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 29 October 2009 8:39

[Update 29 October 13:50 CET: The Iraqi parliament has just started its session, the last before the Iraqi weekend, reportedly with an agenda that does not include the election law. 14:35: Parliament has reportedly adjourned until Sunday]

After the idea of using the 2004 registers of voters for Kirkuk in the next parliamentary elections has been circulating as an alternative since at least June, all of a sudden yesterday night – and only hours before a bill including an option to use the 2004 registers is scheduled to be presented to parliament for a vote later today – Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that it would be “technically impossible” to use those registers. One press report states that the IHEC cites the fact that the registers were compiled by the United Nations and that the IHEC would need “a very long period of time” to make them compatible with its own system. Another simply says the IHEC does not have the registers and there is even talk about the possible “loss” (fiqdan) of the records!

Meanwhile, the Iraqi press is discussing the contradiction whereby the political council for national security including several key Kurdish representatives first agreed by consensus to a package of three different alternatives for Kirkuk that could be voted on, only to see them rejected by Kurdish politicians the day after. The speculation focuses on possible intra-Kurdish conflicts, highlighting the fact that Masud Barzani was represented at the meeting only by a person acting in his capacity (he himself rarely travels to Baghdad) and once more identifying Barzani and his party as the real obstacle to progress.

It cannot escape notice in this context that Faraj al-Haydari, the chairman of the IHEC, used to be a member of the highest political leadership in Barzani’s party, the KDP. He, along with Qasim al-Abbudi (who broke the news about the “unavailability” of the 2004 registers), has been a frequent focus of criticism by the Iraqi parliament lately which has questioned his political independence. The main defender of the IHEC against any suggestion about changes to its membership has been UNAMI, the UN body which has consistently sided with the Kurds in the discussion of the election law (and which receives lots of credit in statements by Kurdish politicians for that reason). If it is correct that the IHEC has deliberately withheld information about supposedly insurmountable technical problems concerning the 2004 registers for so long, then the capital I for “independence” in its acronym is no longer meaningful.

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