Iraqis Monitor Cambodian Elections: Delegates Join with Local NGO COMFREL

A delegation representing 10 Iraqi political parties traveled to Cambodia on to serve as election monitors for the country’s April 1 local commune council elections.  The Iraqis were part of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia’s (COMFREL) election monitoring effort.  The International Republican Institute (IRI) helped organize the trip for the Iraqi delegation to provide them with an opportunity to gain election-observation experience.  Serving as election observers provided a unique opportunity for the Iraqi politicians to see the electoral process and provides them with ideas for election procedures in Iraq.

Cambodia has made large strides in moving past its grim history of death and destruction and embracing freedom in a post-conflict democracy.  Iraqi delegates learned that despite a violent history, the Cambodian people have a love for peace and democracy.  This lesson, coupled with newfound relationships among the Iraqi parties represented on the delegation, may lend the greatest reward to both participants and organizers of the mission.  The delegation witnessed first-hand the evolution of a conflict-state to a people embracing democracy and freedom.

As part of COMFREL’s election monitoring efforts, the Iraqis and other monitors met with high-ranking leaders of Cambodia’s four political parties, members of civil society, and representatives of the National Elections Commission.  They were briefed on the rights and responsibilities of election observers and on Cambodian election law.  The delegation was particularly interested in the current political situation, as well as on contemporary social and economic issues.  Lessons were inferred from the Khmer experience by Iraqi delegates, while they themselves are transitioning into a democratic post-conflict society.

After observing campaign activities in the streets of Phnom Penh two days before the election, the delegation separated into four groups and traveled to eight provinces across Cambodia – Banteay Meanchay, Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Kratie, Phnom Penh, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng.  On Election Day, Iraqi monitors visited approximately 100 polling stations to identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in Cambodia’s election system, including campaign regulations, the balloting process, vote tabulation and reporting.  

The delegation found the experience professionally rewarding on many levels.  They reported they were impressed by the structure of the political parties and their organization throughout the campaign process, and expressed hope to utilize the knowledge gained in Cambodia to further develop the political parties and the electoral process in Iraq.  

Members of the Iraqi delegation include representatives from the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Da’wa Party, Kurdistan Democratic Party, Iraq Islamic Party, Kurdistan Islamic Union, Iraq National Accord, Iraq Turkomen Front, Islamic Virtue Party, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

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