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President Barham Salih: Iraq Needs Free and Fair, Early Elections
After officially ratifying the country’s new electoral law on 5 November, 2020, the President of the Iraqi Republic, Barham Salih, stressed the need for free and fair - and early - elections. These should be transparent and well-coordinated at every stage, he said. This included Iraqi officials working together with international election monitors.
Electoral corruption has been an extremely serious issue in Iraq, the Iraqi President noted, and it had caused Iraqi citizens to doubt the democratic process, undermined their confidence in the legitimacy of the results and discouraged voter turnout. A younger generation in the country were calling for reform, he said. Free and fair elections were the way to deliver this.
The Iraqi President also said that, although the new law was not perfect, it signalled progress and had the potential to enable future reforms.
The full text of the speech follows:
In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful.
In fulfilling my duties, I have ratified the electoral law in the run up to early, fair and free elections.
The law was passed after a long debate. The reform of the electoral law was a national demand to secure Iraqis' right to choose their representatives without fear of forgery, manipulation and the exertion of pressure on voters.
Yes, I admit that there were some reservations about the legislation, which was previously passed by the Iraqi Parliament. Certainly, it does not represent all that we aspire to. But at the same time, it represents valuable progress and constitutes an essential building block leading toward reform. It confirms that consideration should be given to the Iraqi people as they are the real source of the legitimacy of a government.
Today, after the electoral law is passed and ratified, I call upon all state institutions to swiftly fulfill the required conditions for conducting early, fair and free elections. That includes all stages of the process, including biometric voter registration. It is essential that relevant state institutions engage in effective and genuine cooperation with the United Nations and the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission to ensure monitoring and oversight, that will guarantee the integrity of the ballot.
During previous ballots, election results were contested or doubtful, and this is a major cause for the unwillingness of citizens to participate in elections. It undermined citizens’ confidence in the legitimacy of the system and, in fact, the entire electoral process.
Electoral corruption is a serious scourge, that threatens the peace and stability of our community as well as the country’s economic viability. Electoral corruption and financial corruption are connected and interdependent – one benefits the other.
Iraqis have the right to enjoy the wealth of their country and to live a life of freedom and dignity. To do so, we have to build a powerful and capable state that adequately represents every sector of Iraqi society, and guarantees each a peaceful life.
We are facing a decisive and extremely delicate stage in Iraq's modern history. This is why political and social forces must take up their responsibilities and enable a new generation to fulfil its promise to enact reforms, justifying the untainted blood that has been spilled on the path toward those changes.
Iraq deserves better. Iraqis have suffered, and continue to suffer. We have to create a political climate which will help alleviate this suffering, as well as ensuring justice and integrity during the choosing of a strong government, one that preserves the state's sovereignty and prestige.
This is what we aspire to, through an electoral law which will enable Iraqis from all walks of life to vote and to participate in elections, God willing, without the historical problems of forgery, manipulation and pressure.
We ask God the Almighty to grant Iraqis well-being, peace and security.
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