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IHEC: Between early elections, preparations and challenges

03-09-2020

IHEC: Between early elections, preparations and challenges

 

On Thursday, September 3, 2020, through Zoom app , Tammuz Organization for Social Development, in cooperation with the High Elections Commission, held its fourth electronic dialogue seminar, hosting Prof. Ali Hamid Hawi, Director of Operations and Information Technology Department in the National Office of the High Electoral Commission, and Mr. Dawood Salman Khudair, responsible for procedures and training in the Operations Department To talk about the commission's readiness to hold early elections.

Vian Al-Sheikh Ali:

After presenting an introduction about the purpose of the seminar and its sequence among the others held by the organization during the past weeks, its importance was discussed, It is characterized by the participation of the party concerned with the implementation of the electoral process, and that is why it is important to hear from this party, represented by the High Electoral Commission, about the general preparations for holding early elections, and whether the commission is able to conduct such a process, and we would also like to know the detailed procedures for its implementation, such as updating the register of Voters, biometric card, and so on.

Mr. Ali Hamid Hawi:

As you know, there was a change in the administrative structure that started from the upper structure and middle cadres according to the new law of the Commission, which took a long time. In spite of that, preparations are in full swing for the implementation of the electoral process, as the commission expressed its readiness, but indicated the necessity to provide the components of the electoral process, including the completion of the election law that has not yet been completed and its appendix that has not been completed so far, Which represents the basic part of the law with regard to the commission, without it, the commission would not be able to set an integrated schedule  or action plan, including the process of updating the voter register, as the update also depends on the shape and size of the voting  districts on which the updating form is prepared. Despite the challenges we mentioned above regarding preparing for the elections, the Commission has prepared a semi-annual plan until the end of this year, which is concerned with preparing for elections in other matters that do not depend on the election law. Among them, in the operational aspect, which includes opening biometric registration centers, providing registration kits, updating a database for the preliminary election record, and updating, especially for  people who recently turned to legal age for  voting, who in the event of non-attendance and having them  biometrically registered,  will be issued with short-term cards.

 And the resumption of the distribution of biometric cards, as there are more than 3 million cards that have not yet been delivered. However, the Corona pandemic affected the opening of registration and reception centers, and the regional center in Dabbash should also be prepared and the necessary kits provided, especially after the kit fire in Erbil. Among the obstacles are the absence of a structure, the budget, and the failure to form committees specialized in estimating costs and the like, which depend on a work plan and a timetable approved by the commission. We need support from state institutions such as the Ministry of Trade, Planning, Education and home affairs , that despite there was previous coordination with most of them ,they were  instructed by the Presidency of the Government on the necessity of cooperation and coordination with the Commission to facilitate its work,. Also, there is a need to conduct contracts with examining companies and increase training, which is one of the important matters, especially on the new division to develop the capabilities and skills of employees, especially in the issue of health safety matters, which represent new issue, as well as ensuring the integrity of elections and enhancing transparency procedures.

Vian Al-Sheikh Ali:

In light of the lack of a budget, the absence of an approved election law, in addition to the Corona pandemic, do you think that the commission is able to hold early elections in June 2021, according to the date specified by the prime minister?

Mr. Ali Hawi:

The proposed law needs to be reviewed and modified, including Article 38 regarding announcing results, counting and sorting procedures, and matching the counting and manual counting with one station from each center, and this is not possible in one day and is difficult to implement, as well as special paragraphs on the names of the security forces that must be delivered 60 days beforehand, as well as the special paragraph By distinguishing the special voting cards, which means that there are serious challenges facing holding the elections on the proposed date. Unless these paragraphs of the law are amended, electoral districts are drawn, and the election budget is determined in the near future, then it will be possible to say that the elections will be held next June.

Vian Al-Sheikh Ali:

Ms. Vian thanked Mr. Dawood for his interest in the organization and his persistence in attending the previous electronic sessions, which means that there is knowledge of the details of previous discussions and inquiries, which we hope to clarify in the intervention, and there is a need to know more details about the procedures for updating the voter register in light of what Mr. Ali Hawi announced about There is a plan to reopen biometric registration centers, and how citizens will be encouraged to register, update and receive. Regarding the technical matters and the verification and acceleration devices that were adopted in the previous process, which witnessed some technical problems at the time, what is the readiness to adopt them in these elections?

Dawood Salman:

As it was mentioned on the timetable regarding the possibility of holding the elections in June, we confirm that in the event that everything related to the law, departments and the budget are ready before the current September 30, it will be possible to hold the elections with a suitable operational timetable, and in the event that these matters are delayed for the month of October or November, it will present a stressful circumstance on the work of the Electoral Commission.

 As for biometric cards and the work of registration centers, it is in place at a rate of 25%, but the commence  of registration and updating procedures in it depends on the election law and mainly on the appendix for the distribution of voting districts, and coordination with the crisis cell is required for the digital fingerprints required for registration. In the elections, the commission will approve two short-term and biometric cards, and at the same time it calls on citizens and urges them to head to the registration centers, as soon as they start working, in order to adopt permanent and reliable cards.

Note that there are 3,585,756 issued biometric cards and ready for delivery as soon as the centers start work. As for the displaced, the data of 95% of the number of displaced persons have been updated, and there are only 5% that have not been updated due to their lack of papers and identification documents, and work continues between the offices of the elections commission and the camp administrations in coordination with the directorates of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the purpose of issuing official documents and completing the update process. As for removing the names of the deceased from the voters' registry, the Commission cannot delete any name except through the Ministry of Health data and with direct notification by the deceased’s relatives, without this, the names cannot be deleted.

I also confirm the observations mentioned regarding Article 38 of the law, which are difficult to implement technically and need to be modified or detailed explanation. This article also provides for the candidates' agents to be provided with electronic copies, and in fact the device may have one ram.

As for the work and readiness of electronic devices, it also depends on the issuance of the appendix to the law on defining electoral districts, based on which the electronic devices are programmed and the electoral papers printed for each constituency.

Vian Al-Sheikh Ali:

It is also known that there are a number of projects proposed for Defining  voting  districts, some of which go to the number of parliamentary seats, some on the basis of the women's quota, and some of them are suggested intermediate districts, so is the commission ready to work scenarios for action plans according to these projects? From a technical point of view, which form would be the easiest and best for the commission to work in? Have the legislative authorities been informed in the best way?

Mr. Dawood Salman:

The commission will be pleased with all forms, regardless of the size of the constituency, whether small or large, despite the difficulties and technical challenges it will face, but the best form for the commission is for sure that the governorate is a single voting  district because the commission has worked on this organization since 2005 and is now administratively ready and experienced in this system.

Mr. Ali Hawi:

He pointed out that developing scenarios does not take place without completing the election law, and therefore setting plans requires contracts and periods of time that must be confirmed.

Participants’  interventions:

Mr. Hussam:

The system of small voting district will constitute a burden on the commission because it needs a stable and independent commission, especially with the presence of structural changes and a commission of judges far from specializing in elections and the absence of a population census. Also, small Voting district need a great cultural awareness, and we lack that. Regarding the approval of the election results, how will they take place and the Federal Court is incomplete.

Mrs. Jinan Fattah:

She inquired  about not receiving her voting  card despite the update process?

Ali Abdul Razzaq:

 He said that skepticism still exists regarding conducting fair elections due to the lack of a solid database represented by the voter register, as most state institutions lack an accurate database. His question was whether announcing the results as stipulated in the election law and according to the small constituencies, will the announcement of results be at the level of each district and then the center?

Mr. Ghaith Al-Tamimi:

Democracy is not a static entity that is summoned every four years via a ballot. Rather, it is a translation of the citizens' will that must be seen through practices and mechanisms in daily dealings. The constitution aims to form two chambers, one of them legislative and the other is representative. Legislative with a limited number, in which women and minorities are represented in a quota. Representation does not require reliance on the census and the like. As for the representative representation, it reflects the democratic practice of the citizens on a daily basis through the selection of representatives for every 100,000 people based on small districts far from party influences, and thus the representative represents his region. It will facilitate its accountability, the election procedures and the announcement of the results.

Mr.: Alaa Khazraji:

According to a statement by an IHEC official, there are 4,300,000 people who have not received their voting cards (temporary cards) since 2013 due to death, immigration, or other things, so it should not be depended on citizens regarding getting information, but rather relying on the Ministry of Health information and directly deleting the deceased. As for the slum dwellers in Baghdad, most of them are from the governorates, why are they registered in Baghdad and thus resettled there, which increases the economic and service burdens on the capital and also produces political support for politicians who originally from other provinces who are and run for elections as candidates for Baghdad? I also emphasize the importance of research and scientific studies on elections and the need to take them up by election experts. He also asked why the electoral education institute, which had a great role in educating citizens, was closed, in a time of desperate need to raise awareness?

Mr.: Serbast Mustafa:

Unfortunately, the new law of the Commission provided for the exemption of directors and department officials from their duties, which would cause the Commission to lose a lot of expertise and competencies, many of which were independent. Also, the Commission’s law stipulates bizarre paragraphs, including that the director general is not required to have any experience, while the head of the division is required to have at least ten years of experience, how is this done and who is responsible for the work.

As it is known, the Operations Department is the most important one and assigned to it and other administrative offices are linked, so how can a head of a department head it while directors of the related departments are general managers, this will create an administrative problem I would also like to point out that there is a big difference between the statistics of the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Planning, amounting to approximately one million and three hundred thousand people. Likewise, the Ministry of Health data cannot be relied upon because it is only statistical data, while the voter register needs accurate detailed information. I also recommend the importance of proposing an amendment to the election law in the event that it is amended. It is expected that the biometric registration process will be completed and approved exclusively in these elections in order to get rid of many problems. Note that the House of Representatives does not have sufficient knowledge of electoral systems and elections, which results from the issuance of laws that the Commission, as an executive body, bears the burden of its poor legislation. He also asked about the State Council’s approval of the commission’s internal system, which requires approximately six months, and about the Ministry of Finance’s approval of the administrative staff? And also the question about the possibility of cutting the electoral register based on the Voting district that will be determined?

 Dr. Wael Munther Al-Bayati:

Regarding the voter register and its problems, and by returning to the constitution, we find that the right to political participation is a right, which means citizens' freedom to vote or to abstain, and for the purpose of preparing a solid electoral register with people not interested in participating or attending  registration centers, the commission can go to them directly and in the event of their abstinence and refusal to register, removing them from the election registry according to a legal text that must be included in the election law, and thus the voter registry is liquidated, provided that the voter retains the right to participate in the subsequent electoral processes, which will require submitting a request to be added to the election register within an appropriate period of time. The Commission can also coordinate with the Ministry of Health to obtain a copy of the death certificate of each deceased, provided that paragraphs are included in it for additional information regarding the residence address and others for the commissioner

The Commission can also coordinate with the Ministry of Health to obtain a copy of the death certificate of each deceased, provided that paragraphs are included in it for additional information related to the residence address and others, for the Commission to take the necessary action.

Marwa Al-Jumaili:

She asked why were the technical directors with experience not involved in the prime minister's meetings instead of being satisfied with the new directors? Also, the big change that included the law of the commission, the council, the administrative structure and the electoral law during a limited period will make it difficult to work in the elections. Therefore, it is necessary to complete the organizational matters and appointments, and then go to the steps of preparing for the elections.

Vian Al-Sheikh Ali:

There are many issues and inquiries regarding the administration of the commission, its decisions, and other topics related to the electoral process that we did not discuss today, but will be raised later with other seminars hosted by those concerned about these issues. Some questions were also received in written form, including:

Majeed Shaker: He asked about matching the barcode of the ballot paper with the code of the biometric card, does it not represent a breach of the voter's confidentiality?

Mrs. Alaa Al-Shammari: She asked about the possibility of conducting the biometric update and registration process via an electronic link to overcome the problems of the Corona pandemic?

There have also been proposals to form mobile teams from the commission to conduct the biometric registration process, and thus be part of enhancing the participation of citizens and preparing them to participate in voting if they wish.

Mr. Ali Hawi's response:

- Concerning the question about not obtaining the card, if the reason was losing it in the registration center, then the citizen has the right to file a complaint, and thus the role of the voter in the success of the process will be activated, as he is a primary party.

- Concerning the counting of results at the polling station, it is basically at the station level and announced, but the general results of the electoral district are announced centrally.

Regarding some of the proposals mentioned as an interpretation of the constitution, the adoption of these proposals requires an accurate central database, and we lack that despite the continuous data development process.

- Deleting the deceased is done in three ways: Either by direct notification from the deceased’s relatives during the update period, or by the arrival of central data from the Ministry of Health, but it is a statistical and inaccurate base in the data that concern the Commission and there is a proposal for coordination with the Ministry of Health in preparing a program to provide data, and the third way is The Ministry of Trade, despite not being responsible for the deceased, is responsible for withholding the deceased’s card, and its data is close to the Commission’s data, but it is also imprecise for not informing the deceased’s relatives of the death in order to preserve the ration card of the deceased.

- Regarding slums, the commission did not issue cards to its residents on the basis that they are approved areas, but their residents came from other areas and therefore have electoral cards. Perhaps the commission would set up a polling station in those areas to facilitate the voting process.

The Institute for Electoral Education is an urgent need that must be activated.

- With regard to exemptions for directors and the appointment of others subject to administrative compliance with the laws.

- There is a difference in the number of inhabitants between the Ministry of Trade and Planning, due to the Ministry of Planning’s reliance on a mechanism called projections according to certain standards and merges that can know the approximate numbers, but they are not based on the basis of the population census.

- The Commission has already established and will continue to work in mobile teams for biometric registration in the field in ministries and government institutions, as well as in regions and public places, despite the challenges it faced at the time.

- With regard to the division of the voter register according to the electoral districts, it can be done after adopting the annex to determine the electoral districts.

- The approval of the bylaw and the structure of the commission is in progress, but it has not been approved, I think.

- With regard to requiring citizens to register, it is necessary and needs a legislative text, noting that there are countries that go to compel citizens to vote.

- Confidentiality of the ballot the barcode of a ballot paper is saved for a ballot that is not associated in any way with the election data.

Biometric registration via the Internet is not possible because it depends on fingerprint and direct presence.

Mr. Dawood Salman:

- To verify the voter information and the readiness of the biometric cards, there is an electronic application called "Voter Register" that can be downloaded on smart phones and follow-up information.

- The Commission welcomes all studies and research that are submitted directly by experts and by official request.

- The Electoral Education Institute is currently re-functioning, in cooperation with organizations and parties concerned with elections.

- The election law obligated the commission to run mobile teams. Here we propose to include a legal text that obliges voters to receive the card and conduct the registration process.

At the end of the symposium, thanks and appreciation, on behalf of the Tammuz organization staff, were extended to the Mr.s from the Electoral Commission and from the generous attendance of the interested participants for interaction and enriching the debate. And also to send an invitation to follow up on the announcement of the seminars that will be held in the coming weeks.

 

To know more details, you can check the video of the seminar through the link below:

https://web.facebook.com/tammuz.organization.TOSD/videos/3256374134476287

 

Media Office

Tammuz Organization for Social Development

3 September 2020

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