With great caution and concern, Iraqis are awaiting the tenth of next October to cast their votes in the early parliamentary elections, amid doubts about the government’s ability to conduct them in a safe and fair atmosphere.
The early elections come after popular protests against the political elite accused of corruption and foreign dependency, toppled the previous government led by Adel Abdul-Mahdi in late 2019.
Confidence was granted to the new government headed by Mustafa Al-Kazemi in May 2020 to manage the transitional phase, leading to early elections next month.
Al-Kazemi’s government has repeatedly pledged to hold elections in which security and integrity prevail, but many in the country are in an atmosphere of uncertainty, for fear of ISIS attacks that may be launched during them, in addition to the proliferation of unlicensed weapons.
And last Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced in a statement, “The Supreme Security Committee for the elections of the Iraqi parliament (parliament) has started practicing the comprehensive field security plan in Baghdad and the provinces.”
Later on the same day, Al-Kazemi announced, in a speech during an extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers on the elections, that strict security measures had been put in place to prevent the attempted fraud, and to secure it with international UN monitoring.
The Higher Security Committee for Elections will supervise the process of securing the ballot, and is headed by the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations in the Iraqi Army, Abdul Amir Al-Shammari, and includes leaders and officials from the various security services.
Three security cordons around the polling stations
Committee spokesman Ghaleb al-Attiyah said, “The Supreme Security Committee has completed all its preparations and distributed it to the offices of all governorates throughout Iraq.”
In an interview with The Eastern Herald, he indicated that “the security forces of all kinds will participate in the process of securing the elections next month.”
Al-Attiyah indicated that “the security forces will work to provide protection for voters and the 8,372 polling stations distributed over 83 electoral districts throughout Iraq.”
He explained that “the plan includes imposing 3 security cordons around the polling stations; the first will be from the protection of facilities, the second from the local police, emergency services and some formations of the Ministry of the Interior, while the third will be formed from the army and the federal police.”
And Al-Attiyah added: “The security forces will take great security measures to protect voters in all governorates, in addition to securing polling box storage centers,” noting that “the plan also includes allocating a security force to secure the transfer of ballot boxes until they reach the storage centers.”
Al-Attiyah considered that “the security forces and the responsible authorities have sufficient capacity to secure the elections from a security point of view.”
Real Security Challenges
Iraq still faces real security challenges after decades of successive wars and instability.
Despite Baghdad declaring the defeat of the terrorist organization “ISIS” in 2017, after it invaded about a third of the country in the summer of 2014, the organization maintains sleeper cells and launches deadly attacks between different periods.
Iraq also suffers from the widespread of unlicensed weapons, especially in the hands of Shiite factions close to Iran and rebelling against the state by launching attacks on Iraqi military bases that include US forces as well as the Washington embassy in Baghdad.
The Iraqi government’s impotence in front of the influential Shiite factions was evident when some of them stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad and besieged important sites, including the home of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi and the building of the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers in protest against the arrest of one of its leaders on charges of terrorism.
Despite this, the spokesman for the joint operations of the Iraqi army, Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, confirms that “the Supreme Security Committee for Elections has drawn up tight plans to prevent any security violation.”
Al-Khafaji told The Eastern Herald, “The Higher Committee conducted many experiments (simulations), for the security plan to be implemented in the elections.”
He added, “The implementation of the plan came with the aim of closing the gaps that could occur during the elections, and the security forces of all kinds (the police and the army) are ready to secure them.”
“The government lacks security expertise”
For his part, the former army brigadier general and security expert, Adnan Al-Kinani, said that “the current government is unable to secure the upcoming parliamentary elections, because it lacks the security experience in developing plans.”
In his interview with The Eastern Herald, Al-Kinani added, “The elections are a fateful event, and all security authorities must be involved to secure the polling day.”
He pointed out that “the Ministry of Defense and the Interior have tactically different tasks, but protecting the elections requires their participation, according to a tight strategic security plan with the aim of preventing any security breaches throughout Iraq.”
About 600 observers from outside the country will monitor the early parliamentary elections to ensure their integrity, according to the Electoral Commission.
The Election Commission figures on July 31 indicate that 3,249 candidates representing 21 coalitions and 109 parties, along with independents, will run in the elections to win 329 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
Commission spokeswoman Jumana Ghaly told The Eastern Herald that “there is coordination between the commission and the Supreme Electoral Security Committee regarding securing voting at all security levels.”
She added that “the Supreme Committee has special plans to secure the elections, candidates, voters, and all information about the process throughout the country.”