In Rudaw 

EU observers say Iraq election was ‘competitive,’ despite problems

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The head of the European Union mission observing Iraq’s parliamentary election said on Tuesday the vote was generally well-managed but raised some concerns about low turnout and press freedoms.

“The 2021 early parliamentary elections were technically well-managed and competitive, despite challenges as regards level playing field for candidates and problematic aspects of the legal framework”, Viola von Cramon said in a press conference in Baghdad.

“Voting on election day was largely peaceful and orderly. Voters were able to freely express their will, but turnout was low,” she said.

Just over nine million Iraqis cast a ballot, 41 percent of registered voters. Many voters stayed home and others reportedly spoiled their ballots. The election was held in response to protests complaining of corruption and ineptitude among the ruling class and political system. Some parties and voters called for a boycott, fearing that the vote will not bring about real change.

The head of the European Parliament’s delegation, Domènec Ruiz Devesa, said the low turnout is “a sign that confidence in Iraqi politics is decreasing, specifically amongst the young population” and urged the new parliament to “actively engage with civil society and to address the concerns of the citizens.”

Von Cramon said that the campaign was generally fairly conducted, but “freedom of the media and expression was not completely safeguarded during the campaign, as some journalists received threats and were sentenced to long jail terms, and several television channels were temporarily closed down.”

Preliminary results handed the victory to populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who promised a nationalist government.

The government enlisted a record-large team of international monitors to ensure a free and fair vote. The EU and United Nations both had large teams observing the electoral process across the country.

EU observers are remaining in the country to continue monitoring the electoral process, including counting votes and handling complaints, and the mission will publish a comprehensive report in about two months.