By Martin Kobler, Special Representative for the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq.
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.