ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An estimated three and a half million people will be eligible to cast a ballot in upcoming elections, according to data from the electoral commission, though some political parties are disputing the figures.
In previous elections, the voters list was prepared based on information provided by the central government in Baghdad.
“According to the latest registration update of the food distribution form by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, we predict 3.3 to 3.5 million individuals will have the right to vote in the elections,” Shirwan Zrar, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Region’s Independent High Electoral Commission, told Rudaw.
The Kurdistan Region is expected to hold a referendum on independence in September and elections in November. Some political parties, however, have reservations about the voters list including the possibility that the names of the dead have not been removed.
Khasraw Goran, head of the election institution of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), told Rudaw, “According to the new voter registration records sent to the high electoral commission by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, between 2013 and 2017, the number of voters in the Kurdistan Region increased by 500,000. But we want a new accurate and clean list prepared for the elections that does not include the names of the deceased.”
Gorran (Change Movement) has similar doubts over the voter registration record.
Karzan Gardi, Gorran’s Director of the Election Room in their Erbil office, told Rudaw, “The registration record is full of extra names, repeated, and dead people’s names, so the Ministry of Trade and Health should clean up the registration record.”
Karzan believes that conducting a census is the best solution to have an accurate and clean voters’ registration record.
Others want to see the Kurdistan Region relying on its own biometric records to create the voters list rather than information from the central government in Baghdad.
Hemin Askandar, a member of the election institution of the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, expressed his party’s concern. “We have reservations about the voters’ registration record, because the commission has not relied on the biometric information. They want to run the elections according to the food distribution form of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. This means previous issues and difficulties will be repeated.”
He is concerned that refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are included in the food distribution record could possibly end up on the register of voters and cast a ballot.
The door is open for parties to file complaints over the register of voters, said the electoral commission’s spokesperson.
“We have asked the Ministry of Health to send us the dead people’s numbers and data for 2013 to 2017 in order to remove them from the voters list,” explained Zrar, adding that they are benefiting from biometric information to clean up the record.
Since mid-2015, the government has encouraged citizens to complete biometric registration
in order to reduce voter fraud and facilitate compiling a list of eligible voters. However, less than half the population has done so, as of yet.
“According to authorities from the High Electoral Commission of Iraq, between 35 and 40 percent of people who have the right to vote in the Kurdistan Region have registered their names in the biometric system,” said Zrar.
“So the election will be held according to the voters’ record of the Iraqi Ministry of Trade of 2015. Because, if the election were to be held according to the biometric system, nearly 2,000,000 individuals would be deprived of participating in the election.”
According to the KDP’s Khasraw Goran, the number of people who have completed their biometric registration in each province is as follows: 45 percent in Erbil, 33 percent in Sulaimani, 58 percent in Duhok, and 56 percent in Kirkuk.
“If we compare it with the population ratio and those who have the right to vote, the percentage is so small,” Khasraw Goran said.
Gorran’s Karzan Gardi is concerned about a “significant increase” in voters in Erbil and Duhok provinces and no similar increase in Sulaimani.
Aram Jamal, at the Kurdish Institute for Elections, a non-governmental organization that promotes civic education and political participation, says “Population growth and their distribution over the governorates and districts of the Kurdistan Region cannot be traced unless the issue of the voters’ registration record is resolved in the commission and the names of dead people are removed from the record.”
To run the election process in Kurdistan this year, the Kurdistan Regional Government has added 30 million IQD (22 million USD) to the electoral commission’s account.
In the Kurdistan Region’s first parliamentary elections in 1992, a total of 971,953 individuals voted. In the most recent vote, provincial elections in 2014, the number of people who cast a ballot was 2,129,846.