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130 international experts to monitor Iraqi elections: UNAMI Chief

A group of 130 international experts and around 600 supporting staff will be monitoring Iraq’s upcoming elections, the head of the United Nations (UN) mission in Iraq said on Tuesday, adding that it will be one of the UN’s largest electoral technical assistance projects worldwide.

“The UN is deploying a much bigger team to support the elections. In fact, this is one of the UN’s largest electoral technical assistance projects worldwide, with five times as many UN personnel as in 2018,” United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said in a press conference.

“130 international experts are in the process of being deployed to monitor in advance and on election day. They come with around 600 additional supporting staff,” she added.

Iraqis will go to the polls on October 10, a year ahead of schedule. The election was called to meet a demand of protesters who brought down the government of former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. However, interest in the vote is low. Several parties from across the spectrum have announced they will not participate. All sides are questioning the legitimacy of the vote in an environment where powerful militias operate outside of government control, activists and election candidates are threatened, and the electoral commission and political elites are accused of fraud.

The UNAMI chief said that additional measures will be taken to avoid fraud in the elections such as confiscating all voting cards after use and disabling them for 72 hours. She also added that older voter cards have been collected and will be destroyed.

There are a total of 3,249 candidates vying for 329 seats in the parliament. The official campaign period began on July 8, but has so far been lackluster.

The new electoral system of Iraq was signed by President Barham Salih in November into law, dividing provinces into smaller voting constituencies.

There are three to five seats up for grabs in each constituency, with a woman quota seat per constituency.