Kurds and Shiites have both stressed the importance of holding elections on time, while Sunnis have argued they should be delayed because over 2.5 million Iraqis remain displaced. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A parliamentary vote to confirm the date for Iraq’s elections was delayed after Sunnis requested and were denied a secret ballot on delaying the elections.
Kurds and Shiites have both stressed the importance of holding elections on time, while Sunnis have argued they should be delayed because over 2.5 million Iraqis remain displaced.
A suggestion to postpone elections until December was put before parliament on Thursday. Of 260 MPs in attendance, 149 suggested a secret vote on the matter, but Shiite MPs objected, arguing it was illegal.
“Secret voting to delay the elections failed,” Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, a Sunni, said. The parliamentary session was, therefore, postponed until Saturday.
The Council of Ministers has selected May 12 for the vote, but parliament still needs to approve the date.
Demanding a delay, Sunni MPs argue that the war-torn country is not ready to hold elections. If the vote goes ahead in May, they maintain that the most-affected provinces should not participate.
Shiite leaders have strongly rejected any move to postpone the vote.
Qais al-Khazali, head of the Shiite militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, said that delaying elections would “lead Iraq to uncertainty.”
Hadi al-Amiri, another influential Shiite leader and head of the Badr Organization, has also expressed his opposition to any motion that would delay the election process.
Sunnis have criticized plans to go ahead with the election while 1.6 million Sunnis, more than half of all displaced Iraqis, are still away from their homes. Holding elections at this time will not be in favor of the Sunnis, they argue.
Ahmed Misari, head of the Iraqi National Coalition, a Sunni bloc, said that lack of services and instability in war-ravaged areas are the main hurdle preventing Sunnis from returning home.
The United States expressed concern over attempts to postpone the elections, saying delays would set a “dangerous precedent.”
“The US government strongly supports holding the Iraqi national elections in May 2018, in line with the Iraqi constitution. Postponing the elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development,” read a statement from the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The statement added that the United States is helping to “ensure that all Iraqi voices are heard and counted, including the approximately 2.6 million Iraqis who remain displaced from their homes in the liberated areas.”
“Support for Iraq’s democratic institutions is a key part of the United States’ ongoing commitment to a federal, democratic, prosperous, and unified Iraq,” the statement continued. “By exercising their constitutional right to vote, Iraqis will signal their commitment to governance through peaceful processes rather than through violence.”
Kurds also oppose the idea of pushing back the election date.
In a meeting in Erbil on Thursday, Gorran and the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) said they supported elections taking place on time.
“Both sides shared the view and stressed the significance of holding elections this year in a free and fair way,” they said, describing it as “the best choice” to free the KRG from the current political stalemate.
Gorran has entered into a trilateral alliance to run on a joint list in the disputed areas with the newly established Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) and Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal).
KIU is running independently in the Iraqi elections.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who possess the largest number of Kurdish seats in Baghdad, 25, said they want to see the vote go ahead in May. The party is not running candidates in Kirkuk or other disputed areas, describing them as “occupied” by Iraqi forces.
The Presidency of Iraq on Tuesday urged the parliament to confirm the election date and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the vote will be hold on time.