Stage of preparations for the Out-of-Country Voting

Interview with Svetlana Galkina, Public Outreach Adviser, Office of Electoral Assistance
By Sabah Abdul-Rahman
1) Can you please explain what is meant by Out-of-Country Voting? What is the role of UNAMI in this regard?
The Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Program, or Iraq OCV, is a program organized to enable Iraqis residing outside of Iraq to register and vote in the upcoming Council of Representatives’ election.


The IHEC has requested and is receiving support from a UN International Electoral Assistance Team (IEAT) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).  Both the UN and IFES have deployed advisors to OCV headquarters in Erbil as well as to host countries.  Both organizations are providing technical assistance to the IHEC country teams.


Whereby the January and December 2005 OCV operations were conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM on behalf of the Iraqi Independent Election Commission), in accordance with the new Election Law the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is mandated to conduct Out-of-Country Voting operations for the 2010 Council of Representatives, demonstrating a marked increase in capacity.


2) What are the criteria for those Iraqis living abroad to be eligible to participate in the elections?


Final eligibility criteria and documentation are still to be confirmed by the IHEC Board of Commissioners.


3)  In what stage of preparations for the OCV are you now?


Countries were identified, and Memoranda of Understanding were signed with those countries, while IHEC managers were trained and deployed, and international advisors contracted and are in the process of being deployed in those countries. Additionally, country offices were identified and assessment of the Iraqi population in these countries is  underway. Up to 1.4 million ballots were printed and logistics workshops and training of trainers are scheduled for early February.  All polling and training materials will start arriving in OCV countries between the 12 and 18 February.


4) What are the countries where you plan to conduct OCV in? How many of them responded positively to your request? What are the difficulties encountered in this regard? Do you expect that the difficulties be overcome in time?


The difficulties we are facing are indeed challenging, taking into account the time frame for the project, as well as the recruitment timetable. There are also some logistical constraints, due to the delay in the OCV electoral framework caused by ongoing procedural developments.  However, with less than a month until the commencement of the OCV, the program is on track to succeed in its delivery of elections to Iraqis living abroad.


All the 16 countries where Iraqis are currently living, including Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all responded positively to the request for conducting OCV.  Polling centres are still to be identified.


5) Does the shift from closed lists to open lists of candidates and entities have any impact on the preparation for and conduct of the OCV? How?


Open lists are those in which the voters must mark their preferred political entity and are then given a choice of that entity’s candidates to choose from within an open list. The seats won by the political entity are then distributed to their candidates on the basis of their popular vote. Although it adds some complication to training and counting processes, the system enhances the role of the voter in the election beyond casting the vote.


6) What are some of the lessons learnt from the year 2005 OCV that you took into consideration when preparing for this parliamentary OCV?


Instead of holding separate registration and polling processes, registration and voting will take place simultaneously over a three-day period.  In 2005 many Out of Country Voters were discouraged by having to travel large distances to register and then return to vote.  This three-day simultaneous process will overcome such difficulties.


In addition, counting will be undertaken at polling station level thereby eliminating the need for uncounted cast ballots to be transported over large distances.  A polling station count will also ensure a quicker count process and will enhance transparency of the electoral process.


7) What was the turnout rate in the last OCV and what turnout rate do you expect for this election? Why?

Turn out in January 2005 was 264,000 and 368,000 in December 2005.  This gives us an indication of expected voter turnout in 2010.


8) How do you assess the collaboration between IHEC and the UNAMI International Electoral Assistance Team?


UNAMI has had an electoral advisory team co-located with the IHEC for complete electoral cycles.  The team has given technical advice, undertaken capacity building and institutional development to both the IHEC and the Board of Commissionners.  UNAMI’s electoral team has moved from playing a significant implementation role in early elections to a more hands off and traditional advisory role in the 2010 elections.   UNAMI is no longer a member of the Board of Commissioners.  Additionally, UNAMI is no longer an operational partner of the Electoral Commission and as such UNDP and other agencies will not be conducting procurement on behalf of the commission, nor will UN agencies be directly responsible for logistics and security matters - The IHEC strength and capacity is reflected by this.  UNAMI does however continue to work closely with the IHEC providing technical assistance in all areas of electoral management.


9) What role can the media play in making the OCV operation a success? What have you done in this regard?


The media are a vitally important part of achieving the best possible means of carrying out transparent and professional elections.  A comprehensive media/voter education plan has been adopted for the OCV program.  All relevant electronic and print media in host countries will be engaged in delivering OCV messages to prospective voters – where to vote, how to vote and who are the eligible voters.  Country managers and their advisors will identify country specific ways of implementing the OCV voter education plans within their respective host countries therefore enabling voters to be able to make an informed decision on Election Day.

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 February 2010 03:00

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