Implementation of resolution 2576 (2021) - Report of the Secretary-General (S/2021/946) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2576 (2021), in which the Secretary-General was requested to report every three months on progress made towards fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report covers key developments relating to Iraq and provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Iraq since my previous report of 3 August 2021 (S/2021/700) and the briefing to the Security Council by the Special Representative for Iraq and Head of UNAMI on 25 August 2021.

II. Summary of key political developments

A. Political situation

2. Parliamentary elections were held in Iraq on 10 October 2021. The elections were preceded by the dissolution of the Council of Representatives on 7 October. The elections began with a special voting day on 8 October for Iraqi security forces personnel, internally displaced persons, prisoners and detainees. On 11 October, the Independent High Electoral Commission announced partial preliminary results for all governorates. On 13 October, the results of 8,547 polling stations selected by lottery for manual counting, as provided in the electoral law, were added to the overall preliminary results. On 16 October, the Commission stated that it had completed the cross-checking and manual count of 3,681 polling stations which had been unable to send results electronically on election day owing to technical issues. The Commission also announced the full preliminary election results, with a total voter turnout of 43 per cent. In a statement, the Commission reiterated its impartiality and outlined the legal appeals process for disputes regarding the preliminary election results.

3. Following the announcement by the Independent High Electoral Commission of partial preliminary election results, the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, and the Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, issued social media statements on 11 October congratulating the winners of the elections and calling for the formation of a government that would promote the aspirations of the Iraqi people and protect the interests of the State. Earlier, on 10 October, on social media, Mr. Salih thanked the Government, the security services, the Commission and “international observers” for creating the requirements for the “success” of the elections, while Mr. Al-Kadhimi stated that he had succeeded in fulfilling “our promise and our duty in securing fair elections”.

4. Initial political reactions to the announcement of preliminary election results varied across the country. Several political parties and actors rejected the partial and complete preliminary election results, while others expressed concern about perceived election irregularities and called for a manual recount. On 16 October, the Shia Political Coordination Framework (a grouping of Shia political leaders which includes the Fateh Alliance, State of Law Coalition, the National State Forces Alliance and others) announced its “full rejection” of the complete preliminary election results. On 17 October, Muqtada al-Sadr announced on social media his acceptance of the preliminary election results. On the same day, the political bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party issued a statement welcoming the announcement of the complete preliminary election results.

5. On 14 October, Mr. Al-Kadhimi, during a regular Council of Ministers session, called on all those wishing to appeal the election results to do so in accordance with the legal framework. This was echoed in a joint statement on 15 October by Mr. Salih and the President of the Supreme Judicial Council Judge Fa’iq Zaidan, who called on all parties to adopt a “responsible attitude”, calm tensions through dialogue and avoid escalation to maintain peace and security, affirming that “the law [would] have a final say” after all complaints and appeals were addressed.

6. On 6 October, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America issued a joint statement in support of the early elections, on 10 October, in Iraq. On 11 and 12 October, a number of countries issued congratulatory statements, including China, France, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

7. On 12 October, the European Union issued a preliminary statement by its election observation mission in Iraq, in which it noted, among other things, that “the elections were technically well-managed, competitive, and the largely calm electoral campaigns enabled voters to make informed choices” and also that “the elections recorded low turnout”. The League of Arab States (LAS), which had deployed international observers for the elections, released a preliminary statement on 11 October in which it commended the security forces for “providing a safe environment that allowed Iraqis to carry out their constitutional duty freely”. LAS stated that the “voting process was smooth in most of the centres and stations visited by the mission”, while also noting the “low turnout of young people”.

8. Prior to the elections, the Government of Iraq and relevant authorities worked to complete the preparatory process for the elections. The Prime Minister, during a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 7 September, confirmed that the cabinet had reached “full readiness” to hold the elections as scheduled and that the Government had “completed all requirements of the technical and security electoral process”. On 11 September, the Prime Minister chaired an extraordinary session of the Council of Ministers in the presence of the Chair of the Independent High Electoral Commission and the chiefs of the security services, which was “devoted to providing support for the elections”. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of the elections and highlighted the role of all State, security and civil institutions, as well as the Iraqi security forces, in promoting a safe and enabling environment for voters and candidates.

9. On 15 September, Mr. Salih convened a meeting with Iraqi political leaders to present an Electoral Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct set out values and guidelines for ethical and professional conduct among all actors participating in the electoral process aimed at encouraging a conducive environment for voters and candidates. The preparation of the Code was coordinated by the Office of the President and the Independent High Electoral Commission with support from UNAMI. The Code was subsequently signed by the political leaders in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Chair and members of the Independent High Electoral Commission, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. On 20 September, further signing ceremonies were held for candidates in each governorate.

10. In the lead-up to the elections, political actors publicly encouraged voter participation. At the National Dialogue Conference, held under his auspices in Baghdad on 25 and 26 August, the Prime Minister called for participation and support for the elections. Separately, in a statement published on 10 September, the President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani, urged “all parties to ensure civic and peaceful election campaigns” and also called for a “strong renouncement of slander and unfounded smear attacks against candidates, especially against women”.

11. On 8 September, Mr. Salih, during a meeting with the Chair and the other board members of the Independent High Electoral Commission, highlighted the responsibility of political and social actors to encourage high voter turnout. He als o spoke of the need to ensure that elections were free and fair, with voters able to choose their representatives without “fear of fraud or manipulation”. He commended the efforts of the Commission and noted the important oversight role of the judiciary.

12. During the thirteenth annual Islamic conference on countering violence against women, organized by the Al-Hakim Foundation, held on 11 September, the Prime Minister emphasized the role of the Ministries of Interior and Justice in protecting women’s rights in Iraq and called on women to participate widely in the elections. The call was supported by the Electoral Code of Conduct, which was written to be gender sensitive. Its aim was to enhance women’s electoral participation by urging political and electoral entities to refrain from defamation and gender-based violence targeting women candidates.

13. On 29 September, the Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a statement encouraging all “to participate consciously and responsibly” and not to underestimate “the value of their votes” and also emphasizing that the Grand Ayatollah did not support any candidate or electoral lists. On the same day, the President and the Prime Minister, among others, issued statements echoing the Grand Ayatollah’s call.

14. On 27 August, Muqtada al-Sadr announced his intention to return to the electoral process, from which he had publicly withdrawn on 15 July. This decision was welcomed by the three presidencies, leaders in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and other political leaders. However, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi Republican Gathering and the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, all registered for the elections, maintained their previously announced withdrawals. Several political and protest groups continued their calls for a boycott of the elections.

15. During the reporting period, the Government of Iraq promoted dialogue on anti-corruption efforts. With the cooperation of LAS, the Government hosted an international conference on the recovery of looted funds on 15 and 16 September, attended by Ministers of Justice from Arab States. Addressing the participants, the President emphasized the importance of the conference and described corruption as an “impediment to any nation’s economic and social development”.

16. The Government maintained measures to curb the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, including a nightly curfew from midnight until 5 a.m., and reduced staffing in most ministries, alongside a national vaccination programme. On 31 August, the Council of Ministers approved a COVID-19 response and recovery plan that had been prepared by the Ministry of Planning in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). On 5 September, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Supreme Committee for Health and National Safety at which mechanisms to restart in-person teaching at universities were approved.

17. On 14 September, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, in line with the commitment in its Cabinet agenda to “emphasize establishing a decentralized system of power”, granted autonomous administration status for Sawran and Zakhu Districts, formerly part of Erbil and Dahuk Governorates.