IOM launches expatriate voter operation in 14 countries

The Iraq Out-of-Country-Voting (OCV) programme for the 30 January elections was launched on Sunday in the Jordanian capital, Amman, by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

"There is a big time challenge with 48 days before polling and 34 days until registration opens," Peter Erben, head of the Iraq-OCV operation, said at a press conference, adding that Iraqis would benefit from the scheme.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) asked the IOM to organise the participation in the elections of Iraqis living outside the country. IOM's OCV programme, which has its headquarters in Amman, will employ 150 staff for this operation.

IOM also organised "out-of-country" voting in October's Afghan presidential election in both Pakistan and Iran on behalf of the Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The IOM operation proved very successful, with some 850,000 Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and Iran voting, making it a record in refugee election participation, Erben said at the time.

"While IOM will be providing international election experts for the OCV programme, Iraqis will be recruited through the programme in each country to work as advisers, field coordinators and registration/polling officials," an accompanying press release said.

Expatriate Iraqis will cast their votes over three days, from 28 January to 30 January, in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Unites States.

"We use our capacity to reach as many voters as possible," Erben said, noting that IOM could not provide Iraqis living outside the selected countries with any travel expenses, so they would have to get to one of the 14 states in order to vote.
Due to limited demographic data, the number of potential voters will only be known after the registration process concludes. However, IOM has projected a maximum voting population of up to 1 million.

Many Iraqis are refugees who fled the country after the war started in March 2003 and most don't hold a passport. Therefore, voter eligibility and proof of nationality remain issues of concern.

The IOM official explained that voters would have to be entitled to take up Iraqi citizenship. They would not need to hold an Iraqi passport, but would have to be eligible to hold one in the future.

"Having seven days for registration [which will take place approximately two weeks before the elections] will allow us to interview people to find out whether they are Iraqis," he maintained, adding that other documentation proving their citizenship could be studied at the registration station.
Iraqis living abroad will have to register themselves at points throughout the country where they are living or from where they will go to vote. Then, they will get a registration card to show on polling day to be able to cast their vote. This measure, together with inking, will be used to avoid fraudulent voting.

The number of polling/registration stations and their location still needs to be determined. However, they will be located in areas where most Iraqis live. A venue for counting the votes is also unknown at present, but IOM has recommended that it take place inside Iraq.

Additionally, to ensure that Iraqis around the world are aware of the registration and voting process IOM will conduct extensive information campaigns informing Iraqis about their right to participate. An Internet site has been set up (www.iraqocv.org ) and toll-free call centres will be established too.

Another issue of concern was security in the polling stations. The OCV coordinator said that the host governments in cooperation with IOM were working to find ways to provide security.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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