UN envoy warns of precarious post-electoral situation in Iraq

by IANS |

United Nations, Nov 24 (IANS) Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the top UN envoy for Iraq, has warned against a precarious post-electoral situation in the country and called for early government formation.

"Plainly speaking, Iraq's current outlook is precarious -- to say the least. And in the absence of genuine reforms, the situation will not get any better. On the contrary (it will become)," she told the Security Council in a briefing via video link on Monday.

Last month's elections were assessed as generally peaceful, well-run, featuring significant technical and procedural improvements, said Hennis-Plasschaert, the UN Secretary-General's special representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.

She also noted that the elections were hard-earned as they emerged from an unprecedented wave of country-wide demonstrations in 2019 that resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

After the October elections, parties rejecting the electoral results began demonstrations and sit-ins, which escalated on November 5, with casualties reported in Baghdad. In the early hours of November 7, an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took place.

Hennis-Plasschaert said that she has witnessed a severe lack of trust between parties, between parties and institutions, between parties and authorities in recent weeks, in addition to the long-standing lack of public trust in both politicians and institutions.

"Now, that is not without risk, as mistrust often leads to escalation. Hence, our consistent calls for political dialogue to prevail. And again, any outstanding electoral concerns must only be dealt with through established legal channels, in accordance with the law. There is no point in using others as a scapegoat for electoral grievances," she said.

In the middle of this post-electoral turmoil, it is clear that Iraq cannot afford its national interests to be neglected. While the risk of continued political deadlock is real, Iraq desperately needs a government that is able to -- swiftly and effectively -- tackle the long list of unfinished domestic business. This is the primary responsibility of all political stakeholders, she said.

It is important for the current situation not to drag on. Statesmanship, leadership and sound judgment are all needed, and so is a broad commitment to political dialogue, with factual information as a basis for deliberations and decision-making, she said.

"Clearly, time is of the essence. As I stated in August, it is high time for Iraq to emerge from prolonged political standstill, and to establish dynamic, responsive governance mechanisms. In fact, the current post-electoral phase is the moment for all political actors to demonstrate their determination in service of all Iraqis."

She recalled that a lack of political, economic and social prospects made many Iraqis take to the streets before the elections.

"Their demands and grievances remain as relevant as ever. And as we all know, simmering anger easily swells," she warned.

Election results will only be final after ratification by the Federal Supreme Court, which takes place once the Electoral Judicial Panel has adjudicated on those appeals brought before it.

The panel is finalising its work and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is conducting a further examination of over 800 polling stations based on the decisions issued by the panel.

Once this has been completed, IHEC is expected to send the final results to the Federal Supreme Court.

While it would be preferable to have the final results ratified sooner rather than later, it should be noted that there are no constitutional time limits for ratification by the Federal Supreme Court, the UN envoy noted.

"Having said this, let me emphasize: any unlawful attempts to prolong or discredit the electoral results process, or worse, to alter the electoral results through -- for instance -- intimidation and pressure, can only backfire. And I call on all stakeholders not to go down that path.

"And as we await the ratification of results by the Federal Supreme Court, I can only underline that what happens in the coming days and weeks will prove to be even more significant for Iraq's immediate future. The importance of a sound and inclusive government formation process cannot be overstated," she added.

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