During the political transition of Iraq after the United States military intervention, elections were held to form an interim government. Safwat Sidqi speaks about his experience on the Independent Electoral Commission of these historic elections.
In November 2003, the US-managed Coalition Provisional Authority declared plans to grant sovereignty of Iraq to an interim government, which occurred in June 2004. The election was an important step in the transition of control over the territory from the United States to the Iraqi people. In 2004, the Iraqi Interim Government announced the conduction of elections in January 2005 to establish the 275-seat Transitional National Assembly, of which 25 percent of seats were reserved for women. The elections were organized by an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), of which Safwat Sidqi was a member. Despite the difficult conditions within the country and isolated violent incidents—which caused 25 deaths—over 8 million voters participated in Iraq, with some 93,000 Iraqis casting their ballots from overseas. The relative calm of election day the result of citizens commitment to their suffrage rights and detailed security measures.
The success of the election can, in part, be attributed to the efforts of observation missions to ensure that the electoral process is completed with transparency and integrity. The presence of observers also helped to promote public engagement and trust in the democratic process in a time when Iraqi’s had little faith in the motives of their government. Safwat Sidqi of the IEC considers the impact of international observation on the elections:
“Around 21,000 volunteer and 35,000 political entities agents were involved in monitoring the January 30 elections, in addition to media journalists and some foreign embassy’s staff in Baghdad. Ashraf Qazi, the UNSGSR, visited the Commission, immediately after the elections were concluded on the polling day, to expressing pleasures for the success of the process and Jean Pierre Kingsley, head of the Steering Committee of IMIE, declared “The Iraqi elections generally meet international standard”. Even after the announcement of the election’s results officially, several losing lists unjustifiably accused the Commission of being biased and prejudiced; the Commission once again invited international observer’s organization to visit its headquarters to audit the tally process and review the election’s conduct in general.”
Hear more about Safwat’s experiences as a member of the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq in the audio below.