As Iraq’s police, military, detainees and hospital-bound cast early ballots today, the top United Nations envoy hailed the orderly beginning of the strife-beset country’s governorate, or provincial, council elections to be held across the country on 31 January.
“The United Nations is pleased to see that the governorate elections got off to a good start,” Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, said after visiting a special voter polling centre in the Baghdad international zone, noting that the smooth beginning was a good sign for Saturday’s election.
Polling today took place at all 372 Special Voting polling centres and at 1,669 polling stations across 15 governorates of Iraq. Early reports indicate that turnout was high.
Mr. de Mistura said that he was impressed with the professional conduct of the staff of the polling centres, of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and of all relevant ministries.
The UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), which Mr. de Mistura heads, has provided the Commission with advice and assistance on a broad range of electoral issues, including a nationwide revamping of the voter registry in order to increase accuracy and reduce the potential for multiple voting.
The provincial elections are the first in a series of electoral events that will culminate in parliamentary elections in 2009-2010, for which UNAMI played a vital role by supporting the passage in September of the country’s electoral law, as well as a subsequent amendment providing for minority representation.
Elections on Saturday will take place in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, with elections for the provinces of the Kurdistan Region and the Kirkuk Governorate to take place at a later stage.