With just 46 days until Iraq goes to the polls, the UN Assistance Mission for the country (UNAMI) is stepping up its communications to inform voters about their conduct, Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the Security Council on Wednesday, stressing that it is up to the political parties themselves to refrain from attempts to distort the results.
Briefing Council members in person for the first time in over a year, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert, who is also the head of the Mission, also called claims that UNAMI is advocating for a postponement of the elections “frankly absurd”.
She urged everyone to “stick to the facts”, focus on their own roles and refrain from using the United Nations as a scapegoat.
“Truth, discipline and, yes, courage, are required at this critical juncture”, said the UN official
Misinformation ‘risky business’
If misinformation overtakes reality, “it is not only an enormous energy-drain for those working hard for the greater good of Iraq,” she cautioned. “It is also risky business.”
The UNAMI chief urged media outlets to provide accurate, reliable and timely information, instead of fuelling “false perceptions to suit their backers”.
Stressing that Iraq “leads and owns” the 10 October elections, she reminded that their credibility would prove essential for its future.
Elections at hand
Detailing joint efforts, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said that the Independent High Electoral Commission has reached “several complex milestones” while noting that UNAMI has provided technical assistance wherever it can.
She outlined that candidate lists have been finalized; a ballot lottery conducted for all 83 constituencies; ballot printing is ongoing; and all ballot papers expected in country by mid-September.
Meanwhile, polling and results management systems are being reviewed by an independent audit firm.
In parallel, she said preparations for UN monitoring are moving rapidly, with most members of the preparatory team being deployed to Baghdad “as we speak” and regional teams due on the ground in early September.
The Special Representative emphasized that the October elections have “the potential to be different” from those in 2018, and noted that that five times as many UN personnel are currently engaged as were three years earlier.
To calls for a boycott, she cautioned that “a vote not cast, is in fact a gift to those you may be opposed to.”
“With the election date rapidly approaching – Iraq will have our support at every step of the way”, assured the UNAMI chief.
“These elections were hard earned. And I can only emphasize the importance of credible elections for the future of Iraq’s young democracy”.
Deep reforms needed
Iraq is desperately in need of deep, structural reforms, which require unwavering determination, immense patience, and lots of time, according to the UN official, who urged authorities, officials, political parties and candidates not to let the Iraqi people down.
“Understand that accountability is key to restore public trust”, she stressed.
Turning to the issue of missing Kuwaiti, third-country nationals and Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said that Kuwait “conclusively identified” the remains of a further 10 individuals from its list of those missing since 1991.
With a total of 30 cases of missing persons formally closed since November 2020, she expressed hope that “this important step will bring some closure to the families”.