Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraq’s elections campaign got under way on Tuesday, marking the end of a political crisis after members of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) withdrew their resignation following a row with the government.
Disputes between the judiciary and the government over the exclusion of several candidates from the forthcoming parliamentary elections led the IHEC members to offer their resignations, sparking a political crisis and placing the parliamentary elections set to begin on April 30 in doubt.
In a press conference on Sunday, the head of the electoral commission, Sarbast Mustafa, said the IHEC had withdrawn its resignation “in response to official and unofficial calls on the local and international levels,” adding that the commission tasked with monitoring the elections did not wish to be “a reason for disrupting the security situation and Iraq’s political process.”
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, IHEC member Mohsen Al-Moussawi, said: “MPs and candidates who were excluded by IHEC for different reasons and on the basis of judicial resolutions can no longer appeal to return [to the electoral race] after approving the names of the candidates who will stand in the forthcoming elections.”
“Entities and blocs have to present alternative candidates one day before the elections campaign starts,” he said. “There is no need for the parliament to issue resolutions granting immunity to IHEC against prosecution after the approval of the names of the candidates.”
As for how IHEC will deal with potential breaches on the part of the candidates during the election campaign, Moussawi said: “IHEC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Baghdad Secretariat and the Ministry of Municipalities regarding where candidates can post billboards and posters during the election campaign between April 1 and 29.”
According to Moussawi, there will be penalties for candidates and parties who breach the rules.
The Baghdad Secretariat said it has taken all necessary measures aimed at preserving the appearance of the Iraqi capital during the elections.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hakim Abdulzahra, the Secretariat’s public relations manager, said: “The secretariat has formed teams in coordination with IHEC to determine the way in which candidates should use their campaign in a way that does not affect the capital.”
“There are specific guidelines on posting billboards and posters,” he said, making clear that government departments, schools, mosques and statues cannot be used for campaigning purposes.
“Penalties range between imposing fines for minor breaches and filing lawsuits for major ones,” he said, calling on citizens to report any breaches.