Iraqis living abroad expressed hope for the future as they cast their votes in the Iraqi parliamentary elections from Friday (March 5th) to Sunday (March 7th).
In Lebanon, where there are an estimated 50,000 Iraqi residents, 4 voting centres were set up where people went to vote. Members of the Internal Security Forces were deployed in the perimeter around the voting centres. Iraqi civilian officials were in charge of security inside the centres where the number of voters was kept undisclosed.
However, some Iraqis told Al-Shorfa that people went to the ballot boxes on Sunday because it was a holiday, whereas on Friday and Saturday they were at work.
The elections are being monitored by the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) which deployed 135 observers in all the voting centres, in addition to three election monitors from the Arab League who were accompanied by international monitors and intensive press coverage.
The executive director of LADE, Yara Nassar, told Al-Shorfa that the association will prepare a detailed report on the electoral process in Lebanon after the elections are over.
She explained that her association has been monitoring the elections after approval by the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq, and that this comes in the context of the association's activities in election monitoring in Arab countries, saying that "we are working towards establishing an Arab network" for ensuring democratic elections. She said: "The Commission estimates the number of Iraqis residing in Lebanon to be between 55,000 and 100,000, expecting that between 10,000 and 50,000 will vote."
In Jordan, the elections were held amid tight security measures, with a remarkable number of Iraqis casting their ballots despite protests from a few voters about the poor educational and informational campaign carried out by the Independent High Electoral Commission, which did not inform all the Iraqis about the procedures and the locations of the voting centres in the four main cities in Jordan.
The voter Sheikh Qasim Suwaidan Al-Janabi, who came wearing his traditional Arab attire, told Al-Shorfa: "I feel there are flaws in the election procedures, since I tried to look for the name of a particular candidate I wanted to vote for and I couldn't find it."
Dr. Ghazi Rahho, one of the Chaldeans residing in Jordan and the nephew of Archbishop Faraj Rahho who was assassinated in 2008, said "the confusion that the Commission officials were in, as they asked for more than one card for proof of identity, and that the main criteria was the place of residence instead of that of birth, which threw many voters into confusion, and some of them were possibly prevented from casting their votes."
Dr. Makram Yusuf Mansour said during a conversation with Al-Shorfa that "the elections this time were different, and he hoped for a real change for the better in order to restrain those currently holding on to power and who are plagued with corruption and sectarianism."
He added "we know that this is not easy, but we should not let our vote go in vain, because it could help in achieving positive change, even in a relatively small way."
For her part, Saba Al-Abdali, a student, said that she exercised her voting rights for the first time, hoping that the elections will be truly fair, and expressed her excitement in her Iraqi dialect saying: Khosh intikhabaat! (good elections)"
Moreover, the Iraqi ambassador in Amman, Saad Al-Hayyani, expressed his satisfaction regarding the level of turnout, expecting more than 100,000 out of the 300,000 Iraqis residing in Jordan to vote.
In the UAE, Uday Talal Mahmoud Al-Taai, manager of the Independent High Electoral Commission office, said that the electoral process went on normally without glitches, with a high turnout of Iraqi communities living in the Gulf region.
Al-Taai said in an interview with Al-Shorfa that the number of voters on the first day of the elections was above 4,000, despite the fact that there was a delay in the announcement of the voting centres.
Al-Taai added that "the most common problem in the electoral process was inadequate documents, since the voter is expected to present Iraqi primary identification documents and secondary ones as instructed by the Commission, which provide proof of nationality and civil status ID. Most of those who were unable to vote brought travel documents, and were prevented from voting in order to avoid voting fraud."
Al-Taai pointed to the fact that observers from some of the political groups from Iraq were not well-acquainted with the procedures of the Commission, which caused confusion.
After the logistical tasks will have been completed by March 9th, which is the date on which the election data will be sent to the central office of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Arbil, the counting will start on March 10th or 11th.
This report was prepared with contributions from Malek Mohammed Misbah in Beirut, Saleh Zeitoun in Jordan and Ribal Dayekh in the UAE.