Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative on Iraq Elections

3 February 2009

Press Conference by Secretary-General's Special Representative on Iraq Elections

3 February 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by Secretary-General’s special representative on iraq elections

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq today hailed last Saturday’s provincial elections in that country as historic and peaceful, saying he expected preliminary results to be announced by the end of the week and national elections to be held by year’s end.

“We are satisfied that:  one, no violence; two, orderly and well-trained people; three, that they followed procedure; and four, that 51 per cent (voter turnout) is really quite good,” said Staffan de Mistura at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, adding that final election results should be announced by the end of February.

He said the provincial or governorate elections -- the first polls held in the strife-torn country in four years -- had been led and managed by the locals, with the help of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  An estimated 7.4 million of the country’s 14.7 million eligible voters had turned out on Saturday, including 42 per cent of the Sunni population, which had largely boycotted the last provincial elections in January 2005.

Noting that candidates had been able, for the first time, to have their names on the ballots, he said the people had previously voted for party lists, adding:  “It is also an election about real power.”  In choosing their governors, voters had also decided who would manage the $2.3 billion federal budget allocated to provincial councils for basic socio-economic services.

He said that, upon his request, the Electoral Commission had opened 100 more polling stations to encourage thousands of internally displaced persons to vote, but only 60,000 to 70,000 had turned out.  The elections had involved some 14,767 candidates, 118,000 Iraqi observers, 428,000 party agents and 413 international observers from 25 countries or entities.

Despite the killing of five candidates and the explosion of two mortar shells on Election Day, there had been a vast improvement over the estimated 330 daily attacks occurring in the country just a few months ago, he said.  The relative calm and significant voter turnout on Saturday were crucial for the success of subsequent elections, as was the use of a modern election registry system, which helped to prevent fraud at the polls and allowed voters to pre‑register.

Responding to questions about the impact of the polls on future elections, the Special Representative said they boded well indeed for upcoming national elections and he expected polling to take place in Kirkuk this year.

Asked whether the results signalled a resurgence of nationalism, and if that would defuse the insurgency in Mosul, he said the participation of many people in elections in that city was a testament to the public’s commitment to change through a political and electoral process rather than by military force.

Concerning the security situation on the ground and whether it was now appropriate to discuss the full withdrawal of foreign troops, he said he could not, as a United Nations official, comment on the decision of a sovereign Government in that regard.  However, the professionalism of Iraqi security in and around polling stations in such tense and violence‑prone areas as Mosul, Najaf, Anbar, Basra and Sadr City was impressive.

Regarding the new United Nations headquarters in Iraq, he said that, while the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) had approved it and the Iraqi Government had offered “a very good piece of land” for a modest‑sized structure to house experts and other staff, he could not give a timeline for its construction.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.