Political conflicts, war with extremists and millions of displaced: All these threaten to see Iraq’s next elections postponed, despite the fact that many say they will be the country’s most important in over a decade.
Under Iraqi rules, the next provincial elections are due to be held in the country next April. And everyone seems to agree that these elections will be some of the most important the country has held since 2003 when the political landscape changed so radically – even though the federal elections are not until 2018, the provincial elections will be conducted in turbulent conditions, with the voting being the first to happen since the extremist group known as the Islamic State caused such chaos here.
There are also a number of new entrants to the political race: The various militias that have been fighting the extremists, who have become increasingly powerful and politically ambitious. Competition will be fierce.
The Independent High Electoral Commission, the body tasked with overseeing elections in the country, started preparing for the elections around two months ago and has opened hundreds of offices around the country to update voter records and install new technology to prevent electoral fraud.
More than 600 polling stations have opened around the country over the last few weeks. Electoral rolls will be updated there, then the locations for polling booths will be chosen and funds will be made available for purchase of supplies and wages of employees. Following that, campaigning can begin.
Despite this preparation though, many are now saying that the provincial elections should be postponed because there are a number of problems, both logistical and political, in the way.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is one of the strongest advocates of postponement. A statement issued by his party called the postponement of the provincial elections “a necessity – because of the current state of the county. It is the only way to ensure the biggest number of voters participate,” the statement continued.