National Elections Mark Hard-Won Victory for Iraq, Women Candidates, Despite Recount Call, Ongoing Strife, Senior Official Tells Security Council

Outlining Tabulation Process, Key Representative Says Federal Supreme Court Will Have Final Word on Results

Iraq’s recent national elections, held under the 2005 Constitution and conducted in a well-run, generally peaceful manner, marked a hard-won victory for the country, despite taking place in the shadow of an unprecedented wave of violent countrywide demonstrations in 2019 and 2020, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), presenting the Secretary-General’s three latest reports — on UNAMI (document S/2021/946); the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third country nationals, as well as missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives (document S/2021/930); and the electoral process in Iraq (document S/2021/932) — began with a “resolutely positive observation”: that the fifth national elections held under Iraq’s 2005 Constitution were peaceful, well run and featured significant technical and procedural improvements.

Nonetheless, with many of the protesters’ grievances remaining unaddressed and the electoral results awaiting ratification, she said the current outlook of the country was “precarious”. In October, parties rejected the electoral results and began demonstrations. Following that was an attempted assassination of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on 7 November. Such unlawful acts must not be allowed to derail Iraq’s democratic process, she emphasized. The Federal Supreme Court will ratify the result, which can take place after the Electoral Judicial Panel adjudicates on the appeals brought before it.

One positive outcome of the electoral proceedings was the election of women candidates, she reported, noting that they most likely exceeded the 25 per cent women quota; she added that percentage was a floor and not a ceiling. However, in recent weeks, mistrust has grown between parties, which risked leading to escalation. Voicing concern, she stressed: “Any unlawful attempts to prolong or discredit the electoral results process — or worse, to alter the electoral results through (for instance) intimidation and pressure — can only backfire.”

Amal Kabashi, a representative of the Iraqi Women Network, a civil society feminist alliance of more than 100 local organizations, also briefed the Security Council, recalling, among other things, the role she played in drafting the first national action plan in 2014 to implement resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Expressing growing concerns that feminist activists and human rights defenders faced threats of assassination, kidnappings, assaults and defamation, especially during the protests in 2019 and 2020, she said all of these have occurred with impunity.

She outlined key issues regarding Iraqi women, noting that, though the results of the election may raise the percentage of women in the House of Representatives to more than 30 per cent, their meaningful representation must also be reflected through an increase in the number of women in ministerial positions. She also called for the establishment of a National Council for Women’s Empowerment, along with national laws and regulations that protect women and girls from gender-based violence. A national mechanism to support inclusion of women was critical to ensure adequate resources and oversight for implementing Iraq’s national action plan on resolution 1325 (2000). The Security Council must ensure that UNAMI prioritizes protection for women’s rights in its support to the Government.

In the ensuing debate, delegates welcomed the peaceful, orderly elections, voicing their hope that the results will be ratified swiftly and enable the new Government to enact much-needed reforms. Many also condemned the recent assassination attempt on the Prime Minister, with several stressing that any concerns with the election or its results be addressed through legal and peaceful channels.

The representative of Ireland commended the Government of Iraq and the Independent High Electoral Commission, as well as regional and international observers for the largely peaceful electoral process. “To the people of Iraq — we salute your courage and your determination to exercise your democratic right in a very challenging environment,” she stated.

Niger’s representative likewise welcomed the successful holding of the recent elections and called on the actors to use legal means for any claims related to the results. Calling for renewed commitment to combat the ongoing threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, he said: “Iraq needs our solidarity to turn this tumultuous page in its recent history.”

The delegate of Estonia underlined the importance for the next Government to implement economic reforms, fight corruption and ensure State control over all armed forces. He expressed concern about reports of continued attacks against demonstrators, political activists and journalists, and called on Iraqi authorities to step up efforts to ensure accountability for those responsible for the violations and to safeguard the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.

The representative of Iraq informed the Council that the Independent High Electoral Commission is conducting a recount and tabulation of a number of polling stations before the adjudication of results by competent judicial authorities at the behest of certain parties. The Federal Supreme Court will have the final say regarding the results of the election.

He outlined measures taken to improve women’s empowerment, including through a centre for the prevention of gender-based violence and a draft amendment to the Penal Code providing for the protection of women’s rights. He also reported that the Iraqi authorities had established 1,000 model schools and were addressing the low water levels and salinity of the Euphrates.

More so, the Government was taking steps to address various national concerns, including by a national counter-terrorism strategy and a recently enacted law to address the negative effects of ISIL (Da’esh) against Yazidis and other communities, he said. Condemning the failed assassination attempt against the Prime Minister, he thanked all the countries and international organizations that also condemned the “cowardly act”, in particular, the Secretary-General and the Security Council for their press statements on 7 and 8 November.

Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, India, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Norway, Viet Nam, China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Kenya, Tunisia and Mexico.

 

Source: UN Security Council