UN urges ‘patience, calm’ as Iraq waits on ratification of election results

NEW YORK: Iraqis across the political spectrum should show restraint, shun violence and wait patiently for the final ratification of results from last month’s “hard-earned” elections, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Jeanine Plasschaert, special representative of the UN secretary-general and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said there is much for Iraqis “to be proud of” in the Oct. 10 election — the fifth national poll held under Iraq’s 2005 constitution — which the UN has praised as generally peaceful and well-managed.

Her comments come as Iraq waits on final confirmation of the election result by the Federal Supreme Court.

Referring to the poll, Plasschaert said: “All in all, it was a substantial achievement, which Iraq’s authorities and parties would do well to publicly acknowledge.”

She reminded the Security Council that the October elections came in the wake of an unprecedented wave of protests throughout Iraq in 2019, including “demonstrations that were marked by violence, excessive use of force, abductions and targeted killings.”

The protests resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, Plasschaert added.

Iraqis went to the polls to elect MPs amid protesters’ calls for a halt to endemic corruption and an improvement in living conditions.

Following the elections, supporters of the Fatah Alliance — the coalition representing Iran-backed militias that lost two-thirds of its seats — claimed the poll was rigged and refused to accept the results, despite hundreds of international observers testifying to the integrity of the voting process.

Describing the current Iraqi outlook as “precarious,” Plasschaert highlighted clashes that erupted in the weeks following the vote, and sit-ins that escalated into violence and resulted in several deaths.

The UN official called the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi a direct attack on the Iraqi state, “a heinous act, and one that can only be condemned in the strongest of terms.”

Speaking to the Security Council remotely from Baghdad, Plasschaert added: “Let me be clear, under no circumstances must terrorism, violence or any other unlawful acts be allowed to derail Iraq’s democratic process.”

While acknowledging that emotions run high in any democratic election, she called for dialogue, calm and restraint to ease tensions, and warned that any unlawful attempt to prolong or discredit the electoral results process, through violence, intimidation or pressure, “can only backfire.”

“The fact is that citizens in democracies often must recognize that, even if the results are not what she or he hoped for, the process as such might have been sound. In fact, one of the clearest signs of a strengthening democracy is the ability for parties and electors to recognize outcomes — no matter their individual preferences when it comes to results.

While reiterating the absence of any evidence of systemic fraud, the UNAMI chief called for any electoral concerns to be dealt with through legal channels.

“While losing seats can be difficult to digest, it is important — for any party in any democracy — to examine the reasons and to learn for future elections,” she said.

With the continued risk of political deadlock in Baghdad, Plasschaert underscored the importance of an inclusive government formation process.

“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.

US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield also said Iraqis should be proud of this election, which took place “in a world with far too much democratic backsliding.”

Thomas-Greenfield also credited the Security Council for the successful results of Iraqi elections.

“This council spoke in unison, authorizing UNAMI to provide electoral technical assistance and election monitors. This council came together and provided the resources the government of Iraq needed to meet the legitimate demands of its people. This council helped strengthen democratic institutions,” she said.

The US envoy called for this “spirit of cooperation” to continue across all the files on the Security Council agenda.

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