In preparation for Iraq’s 2009 provincial elections, held on January 31, the International Republican Institute (IRI), in conjunction with Iraqi civil society groups, held training programs and voter education events, targeting youth, minority and women voters, across Iraq. In all, IRI conducted 58 candidate and campaign staff training seminars and, with its partners, supported 293 voter education events.
Additionally, to support the efforts of local Iraqi civil society organizations, IRI produced seven separate media programs, drawing on its Media Centre resources. The programs included talk shows, radio broadcast issue debates, town halls with “man in the street” questions presented to political leaders, and a television public service announcement on how to cast a vote in the new election system. More than three million pieces of voter information material, such as mock ballots, issue newspapers, flyers and billboards, were provided to Iraqi voters as a result of IRI’s election activities funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor.
IRI also participated in or led several other outreach events in Washington D.C. concerning the elections. Middle East and North Africa Director Tom Garrett served on a Washington Institute for Near East Policy panel with his counterpart, Les Campbell of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), in the week before the Iraqi elections.
Following Election Day, IRI hosted a roundtable in Washington D.C. on February 4 to discuss the process, as the results were still unknown, of the provincial elections. Panelists were Nickolay Mladenov, Member of the European Parliament (MEP); Julija Belej Bakovic and Erin Matthews, Director of the Iraq Program for National Democratic Institute. They were joined by Robert Varsalone (via video teleconference), Iraq-based Resident Country Director for IRI.
The panelists, who were in Iraq on Election Day, shed insight on the role of the tribal Awakening movements, how Sunni Arab participation affected voting, how Prime Minister Maliki fared in this major political test, and whether the provincial elections can serve as a barometer for the upcoming national elections. MEP Mladenov noted that with the success of provincial elections, “Iraq is standing on its own two feet” and needs ongoing support from the international community. Ms. Bakovic, who was also present in Iraq for the 2005 balloting, said great changes had occurred in Iraq, evident in the candidates’ use of issues over symbolism or sectarianism in 2009 while her counterpart Ms. Matthews labeled the process a “vibrant campaign” that was politically important in advance of December’s national elections.
IRI staff again joined NDI in an elections briefing for Senate staff on February 6 and Julija Belej Bakovic, IRI’s Director of Iraq Programs, was the featured guest on “Foreign Exchange,” a televised public affairs program in Washington, DC.Top