ISHM: May 11 – 17, 2018

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Key Takeaways:

  • Abadi, Party Leaders Congratulate Sadr on Election Victory – Following the announcement of preliminary results from Iraq’s May 12 Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and major party leaders Hadi al-Amiri and Ammar al-Hakim each telephoned influential Shia cleric and leader of the Sadr Movement Moqtada al-Sadr to congratulate him on his coalition’s surprising upset victory in the election. Early results suggest that the Sadrist Movement will seat 54 Members of Parliament, Amiri’s Fatah Alliance will seat 52, and Abadi’s Victory Alliance 49. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition will seat 24. Among Kurdish Parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party will seat 27 MPs and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan 17. A coalition of 165 Members of the the 329 seat Parliament is needed to form a new government and elect a Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker, and President of the Iraqi Republic. Final election results are expected within the next week, however negotiations among the parties and alliances to form the requisite coalition are expected to last for several months. Only 10.7 million of 24 million registered voters cast ballots in the election, which was closely monitored by international and domestic observers. more…
  • Election Fraud Accusations Roil Kirkuk – Prior to the announcement of preliminary election results for Kirkuk Province, Arab and Turkmen factions alleged election irregularities and fraud in favor of Kurdish parties who altogether populate the multiethnic region. Representatives for the Iraqi Turkmen Front and Arab Coalition, and Kirkuk Governor Rakan al-Jabouri called on the Independent High Electoral Commission to count and sort ballots manually. On May 15, the Independent High Electoral Commission announced that the PUK came first in the Parliamentary elections in the Province, followed by the Arab Alliance, Turkmen Front, Victory Coalition, Fatah Alliance, and al-Wataniya Movement, respectively. The following day, hundreds of Turkmen and Arab demonstrators gathered outside of the election offices in Kirkuk to protest the vote and demand a manual recount. Conflicting reports emerged as to whether election officials were being held hostage, with Jabouri denying those reports. UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, urged IHEC to conduct a partial manual recount in Kirkuk in order to ensure election integrity and “strengthen confidence in the process.” more…
  • Party Headquarters Attacked in Sulaimania on Election Day – On May 12, unidentified assailants attacked the Sulaimania headquarters of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, led by former PUK leader and former KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih. On the same day, media sources affiliated with the Gorran Movement confirmed that their party’s headquarters in Tel Zarkana, Sulaimania Province, were also attacked. On May 13, the Sulaimania Provincial Council declared a state of emergency and deployed security forces to the streets and public spaces throughout the province. more…
  • Polling Stations See Some Irregularities – Several polling stations across Iraq experienced intermittent problems on election day, including malfunctions of some electronic voting machines in Baghdad, Erbil, Dhuluiya (in Salah ad-Din Province), and Karbala. Reports of candidates and their supporters campaigning inside of polling locations was not widespread, but did result in the temporary suspension of voting in Abbasiyah (in Najaf Province) and in the Jumhuriyah, Zubayr, and Dyr districts of Basra Province. Stephan Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that “the Secretary-General salutes the tireless efforts of the electoral officials, party agents, and the security forces in making the elections largely peaceful and orderly.” The statement also called on “all Iraqi political actors and their supporters to uphold peace as the results are processed…and to resolve any electoral dispute through established legal channels.” more…
  • Despite US Embassy Caution, Polling Stations Remained Safe on Election Day – On May 11, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned of possible attacks targeting polling stations across Iraq during Parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12. The statement read that “the U.S. mission has received information of possible terrorist attacks against polling stations throughout Iraq…” The warning was criticized by some as intimidating to would-be voters. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi commented on the embassy warning, saying that “the security services are leaders in protecting electoral centers from any possible attacks…we will not allow any threat to the security and safety of our citizens.” On election day, Iraqi Security Forces killed two would-be suicide bombers in Diyala Province and an IED targeting voters in Kirkuk City was discovered and detonated before it could explode. Abadi lifted restrictions on vehicle movement within Baghdad on election day, fearing that the restriction was inhibiting access to polling locations. more…
  • Second Attack in Two Weeks Hits Tarmiyah – On May 16, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt inside of a funeral home in Tarmiyah, approximately 60 kilometers north of Baghdad in Salah ad-Din Province. At least seven people were killed and 25 injured in the attack, the second to hit the area in as many weeks (as previously reported in ISHM). more…
  • Iraq Condemns US Embassy Move in Israel – The Iraqi Foreign Ministry denounced the transfer of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “unacceptable and a flagrant violation of international resolutions and the path of peace.” Ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjoub said that the transfer “angers hundreds of millions of Arabs, Muslims, and Christians around the world.” Influential Shia cleric and frontrunner in Iraq’s national elections Moqtada al-Sadr said in a Tweet that the move “is a disgrace of colonialism and global arrogance.” more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


Abadi, Party Leaders Congratulate Sadr on Election Victory

On May 12, the general election for Members of Iraqi Parliament 2018 began across Iraq. Polling stations opened at 7am to receive voters according to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).

On May 13, the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) announced that 44.52% of registered voters (10.7 million of 24 million) cast ballots during the May 12 elections. More than 900 international observers, 50 thousand local observers, and 3000 lawyers participated in monitoring the elections.

On May 13, Stephan Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, released a statement congratulating the Iraqi people on holding parliamentary elections on May 12, 2018. The statement read that “following the military defeat of [ISIS], the elections represent further progress in building a stronger Iraqi democracy.” The statement added that “the Secretary-General salutes the tireless efforts of the electoral officials, party agents, and the security forces in making the elections largely peaceful and orderly. He commends all Iraqis who took part, in particular those internally displaced persons who cast their ballots despite their difficult conditions.” It also called on “all Iraqi political actors and their supporters to uphold peace as the results are processed. [The Secretary-General] further urges political actors to resolve any electoral dispute through established legal channels and to complete the electoral process by forming an inclusive government as soon as possible. The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Iraq in this endeavor.”

On May 13, the leader of the Victory Coalition, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said that a new government representing the outcome of the election would be formed after Ramadan. The results of the election would be announced in their final form within the week.

On May 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on all citizens and coalitions to respect the election results, and to respect the legal ways to challenge the results. Abadi addressed the nation about Iraq’s achievement over the past four years before the election, “Today, the government completed the constitutional elections on time and we were able to conduct the electoral process with security, enabling our people to cast their votes. I call on citizens and political blocs to respect the election results and abide by the proper legal methods. The country’s security and stability are more important than all other gains.”

On May 14, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed his full readiness to work and cooperate to build and form the strongest possible government for Iraq, free from corruption, quotas, and foreign influences and agendas. Abadi congratulated the Iraqi people and the winning coalitions, saying that “under the constitution of the Republic of Iraq, we will assure the full responsibility of the country’s leadership, protection and defense of its unity, interests and sovereignty until the formation of a new government, which will take upon itself to carry out these national missions and maintain achievements.”

On May 14, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani, received a diplomatic delegation from the U.S., led by Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk and US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman. During a press conference about the meeting, Barzani called on the winning parties to begin talks to form a new government, stressing the need to preserve the “constitutional rights” of the Kurdistan Region.

On May 14, IHEC announced the partial preliminary results of the parliamentary elections for ten provinces, including Baghdad. The commission excluded eight provinces whose results had not yet been audited: Erbil, Sulaimania, Najaf, Dohuk, Salah ad-Din, Kirkuk, Maysan and Ninewa.

On May 14, according to AlSumaria, a London newspaper reported about the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador Brett McGurk, has started talking in Baghdad with a number of Iraqi leaders about speeding up the formation of the next government. According to anonymous source, “the features of the political map in Iraq began to be clear in the light of the election results that were announced, which indicate a convergence between parties that were originally close in terms of visions and plans could make the task of forming the next government easier than expected.” The report described the formation of an alliance that could include Haider al-Abadi, Muqtada al-Sadr, Ammar al-Hakim, Iyad Allawi, Osama Najafi and perhaps Massoud Barzani. Leader of the Sadrist Movement Moqtada al-Sadr commended on McGurk’s visit, saying that the intervention of the U.S. envoy in Iraq affairs “is ugly.” McGurk met a number of officials during his visit, including the leader of the National Wisdom Alliance Ammar al-Hakim and Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri.

On May 15, with over 91 percent of votes counted in 16 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the Sadrist Movement of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was set to secure the most seats in the new Iraqi Parliament. Iran-backed Shia militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Alliance was in second place, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Coalition once seen as the frontrunner, came in third. Preliminary and incomplete results put the totals so far as follows: Sadrist Movement (Moqtada al-Sadr), 54 seats; Fatah Alliance (Hadi al-Amiri), 52 seats; Victory Alliance (Haider al-Abadi), 49 seats; State of Law Coalition (Nouri al-Maliki), 24 seats; National Wisdom Alliance (Ammar al-Hakim), 22 seats; al-Wataniya Movement (Ayad Allawi), 21 seats; Muttahidon (Osama al-Nujafi), 19 seats. The preliminary and incomplete results of the Kurdish Party alliances so far as follows: Kurdistan Democratic Party, 27 seats; Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, 17 seats; Gorran Party, 5 seats; New Movement, 4 seats; Coalition for Democracy and Justice, 2 seats; and the Islamic Union, 2 seats. The remaining 31 seats of the 329 seat Parliament include several minor parties and alliances, or are yet to be determined. Full results are expected to be released in the following week. A coalition of 165 seats are needed to form a new government and elect a Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, and President of the Iraqi Republic.

On May 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called Sadrist movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr to congratulate him on winning the elections. The statement released by Sadr’s office read that Sadr “received contact from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, congratulating him on conducting the electoral process in a secure and democratic atmosphere, and on the victory of the [Sadrist movement], which won first place among the competing electoral lists in the 2018 parliamentary elections.”

On May 15, former KRG President Masoud Barzani and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani telephoned the leader of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr to congratulate him for his election victory. Sadr’s office released a statement saying that “he received a telephone call from Mr. Masoud Barzani and Mr. Nechirvan Barzani, head of the [KRG] government to congratulate the execution of the election process and the victory of the [Sadrist movement] taking first place in the parliamentary elections of 2018.”

On May 15, the media office of Moqtada al-Sadr released a statement saying that the Shia cleric received a call from Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the National Wisdom Alliance, congratulating Sadr for the elections victory. Sadr’s media office released a second statement saying that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organization and leader of the Fatah Alliance, also telephoned Sadr to express his congratulations for the success of Sadr’s Movement in the parliamentary elections. The statement quoted Sadr saying that “what has been achieved is an effort to work harder to achieve the aspirations of the Iraqi people for freedom and independence, and to fight corruption.”

On May 16, Asharq al-Awsat reported that Major General Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian senior military officer in the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, is talking with Shia leaders to form the largest coalition in preparation for the formation of a new Iraqi government. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), “Soleimani held two meetings yesterday in Baghdad with prominent Shia parties…seeking to form a broad coalition.” According to the source, representatives of Nouri al-Maliki, Haider al-Abadi, Hadi al-Amiri, and Ammar al-Hakim, along with representatives of the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, attended the meeting.


Election Fraud Accusations Roil Kirkuk

On May 12, Rakan al-Jubouri, Governor of Kirkuk Province, declared a curfew in the province, from midnight to 6am to prevent any ethnic or sectarian tensions among Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen groups. Additionally, Jubouri ordered a manual recount of votes in Kirkuk Province, saying that the electronic counting system had produced an “illogical” result. Jubouri did not elaborate on the problem with the vote-counting system.

On May 12, supporters of the Fatah Coalition surrounded the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) building in the city of Kirkuk, accusing the UNHCR of rigging the elections result and demanding the manual counting of votes. Additionally, protests erupted in the districts of Hawija, Dibs and Dohuk, caused by leaks concerning the progress in the elections results of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the areas. It was also reported that armed militias besieged a number of Kurdish UNHCR observers in voting centers in the districts of Dohuk and Dibs.

On May 12, the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITF) commented on the breakdowns on multiple devices’ breakdowns, that there is a “deliberate” disruption on a number of polling stations in Kirkuk Province, considering it an attempt to target Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk. The head the ITF, Arshad Salhi, made a statement that “the work of a number of voting devices in the area of Kirkuk has been deliberately stopped in order to stop the Turkmen and the Arab from voting.” He noted that this is “cheating on the test” and indicating that it was “deliberate disruption.”

On May 12, Governor of Kirkuk Province, Rakan al-Jabouri, said in a press conference that “a defect” happened during the election in Kirkuk, and called on Baghdad to begin the process of counting and sorting the votes manually. Jabouri said, “Kirkuk is a small Iraq, and a province has the same legal and constitutional rights,” noting that there has been protests about the “defect” in polling. Jabouri called on the Prime Minister and the head of the Election Commission “to count and sort the votes manually and to make the decision as soon as possible.” Jubouri stressed the need to “transfer the votes to Baghdad under the supervision of the security forces.”

On May 12, the head of ITF, Arshad Salhi, warned of igniting the situation in Kirkuk in the absence of the adoption of manual counting, calling on the Board of election commission to issue a decision to maintain civil and community peace. He added that “what happened in the results of counting and sorting in Hawija is the best example of the existence of manipulation in the voting apparatus.”

On May 13, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the Iraqi Security Forces in Kirkuk Province to control the security and neutrality of the election records. Abadi also called on the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to announce the results as quickly as possible, saying in a statement that IHEC should “take quick action to…announce the results to the public in order to ensure the integrity of the elections.”

On May 13, the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, Arshad Salehi, called on IHEC to start manual counting votes, disputing the results of machine-counted ballots before they were even released. Salhi said that “the Commission will send a fact-finding mission that will arrive in Kirkuk tomorrow.”

On May 14, head of the Arab coalition in the Kirkuk Provincial Council, Burhan Mazhar Assi, called for a manual recount of election results in Sulaimania Province, which he accused of not being accurately representative of Arabs and Turkmen. Assi added that, “if IHEC does not implement the demand [for a recount], the Kirkuk region would break out into unknown conflict.”

On May 14, a Member of the Parliament (MP) from Kirkuk Province, Hassan ran, announced that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will order inspections of questionable ballot boxes in Kirkuk and manual counting and sorting after a meeting between Abadi and deputies associated with the ITF and Arab alliances. He added that “if the fraud and manipulation would be proved, all the votes in Kirkuk will be counted and sorted manually.” Another MP Abdul Karim Abtan said, “We question the results of this election, question the Commission and its integrity, question the work of the devices used for counting and sorting, because there was a major disaster,” pointing out that “the actual voter turnout in the elections does not exceed 19 percent and not what has been announced as 44.5 percent.”

On May 14, leader of the Movement for Change (Gorran Party), Karwan Hashim, announced that six Kurdish party leaders held a meeting in Erbil to discuss allegations of election fraud in Kirkuk Province. Hashim was joined by representatives from the Alliance of Democracy and Justice, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the Kurdistan Islamic Group, the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, and the Kurdistan Communist Party in Erbil. Speaking on behalf of the parties involved, Secretary-General of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Salahuddin Bahauddin, issued a call for new elections in the region.

On May 15, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Reboar Taha, said that his list had won the most votes from Arab and Turkmen voters regardless of sectarian ideology. Taha strongly criticized federal government policy with respect to the KRI, including “threatening the demolition of houses, seizure of agricultural land, expulsion of Kurdish citizens, preventing students from wearing Kurdish uniforms, the participation of Kurdish students in the examinations in Kurdish, as well as abuse of staff in institutions and university professors etc.” According to the IHEC, the PUK came first in the Parliamentary elections that took place in Kirkuk Province.

On May 15, IHEC announced that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came first in the parliamentary elections that took place in Kirkuk Province, followed by the Arab Alliance, Turkmen Front, Victory Coalition, Fatah Alliance, and al-Wataniya Movement, respectively. Based on IHEC’s preliminary results released on May 15, the Rudaw Election Desk suggested that Kurdish parties will obtain approximately 59 seats in the new Parliament, with the KDP seating 26 Members, the PUK 17, Gorran 6, New Generation 4, Islamic Union 2, Islamic League (Komal) 2, and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice 2. In the outgoing parliament, the KDP holds 25 seats, PUK 21, Gorran 8, Kurdistan Islamic Union 4, and the Islamic League 3.

On May 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the solution of the problem in election results in Kirkuk Province lies in recounting and sorting the votes manually. On Monday, May 14, the head of the Arab group in the Kirkuk Provincial Council, Burhan Mezher al-Assi, called on “the electoral commission to meet the demands of the Arabs,” saying that to announce results without meeting the demands of recounting manually would lead to repercussions from the Arabs and the Turkmen. There were complains about the possible manipulation during the voting process since the general election was casted on May 12. MPs and the Arabs and the Turkman believed the disruption and breakdowns of voting devices led to inaccurate voting results, and the actual turnout on the ground in Kirkuk was different from the official number. Abadi said “Iraq’s election commission should hold a manual recount in the northern province of Kirkuk, after reports of fraud and defects emerged in relation to a new electronic voting system. He added that a nationwide recount would be necessary if the reports coming from Kirkuk were substantiated.

On May 15, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Kirkuk called on the Electoral Commission to announce the results of the elections, and warned the UNHCR that it should assume “full responsibilities” for any delay of the result. The PUK said in a statement that “After the announcement of the preliminary results of the elections, armed militias surrounded the polling offices in Kirkuk Province. The UNHCR should have been warned of the seriousness of the situation and it should take full responsibility. We call on the Electoral Commission to announce the results of elections in Kirkuk province this evening, unconditionally.”

On May 16, Riyadh al-Badran, head of IHEC, revealed during a conference in Baghdad that unidentified gunmen besieged several polling stations in the city of Kirkuk, where there were members of the elections staff. According to Badran, the gunmen were trying to pressure IHEC to change the election results in the multi-ethnic region. He said that “the employees of the Commission are in a hostage situation.” Badran added that the final results would be announced over the course of the next two days, and that there was no reason to count the votes manually, which would only delay the process further.

On May 16, The Washington Post reported that hundreds of ethnic Turkmen and Arab demonstrators gathered outside an election office in the city of Kirkuk to protest alleged fraud in last week’s parliamentary elections. The demonstrators believe that hundreds of votes were discounted. Iraq adopted a new electronic voting system for the first time for the parliamentary elections this year, leading many voters to complain of irregularities, including the disruption and breakdown of some voting machines and the failure in delivering voting cards to some areas. The head of IHEC, Riyadh al-Badran, said at a news conference that “armed men had taken over the election office and that the workers inside were in effect, hostages.” Badran said that workers were unable to send results from 186 ballot boxes, because of the alleged armed takeover of the election office. However, local officials and witnesses disputed that account, saying that there was no sign of weapon and the demonstration appeared to be peaceful. Kirkuk Governor Rakan al-Jabouri told The Associated Press “no one was being held hostage.” One demonstrator said that “everyone is asking for one thing only, we are asking for the ballot boxes to be open, even if it’s just one box.” Tahrir al-Obaidi, a lawyer who joined the demonstration, said that “people wanted a change and they voted in large numbers to make that change, but thousands of vote were not able to be casted, people were stopped from going to vote.” Several parties complained of fraud, but demonstrations were mostly limited to Kirkuk Province. The PUK won the largest share of the Kirkuk vote, with 90 percent of the ballots counted.

On May 17, the United Nations (UN) Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, called on IHEC to immediately and fully investigate the complaints concerning the electoral process. Kubis said that “the Commission has to act expeditiously in order to seriously address all complaints including, as necessary, the conduct of partial manual recount in selected locations, notably in Kirkuk. It is important that these are undertaken in full transparency, witnessed by stakeholders, to strengthen confidence in the process. The UN is ready to provide assistance, if requested.” Kubis added that “I also call on all political actors to uphold the peace and remain committed to resolving any electoral disputes through the established legal channels.”

On May 17, MP with the State Law Coalition, Abdul Hadi al-Saadawi, revealed that 81 signatures were collected from the MPs during an emergency session of the Parliament, calling on IHEC to investigate violations and issuing a binding recommendation to the commission to conduct a manual recounting. Saadawi said “many violations occurred during the process of the elections, especially in the province of Kirkuk. Therefore the Electoral Commission is responsible for the political claims and taking samples from certain amount of the ballot boxes for manual counting,” noting that “there should be a request from the Supreme Court to issue a decision requiring the Commission to conduct the manual recounting.”


Party Headquarters Attacked in Sulaimania on Election Day

On May 12, unidentified assailants attacked the headquarters of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice, led by former Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Barham Salih, in Sulaimania Province, and seized control of the news agency Khandan. On the same day, media sources affiliated with the Gorran Movement confirmed that the party’s headquarters in Tel Zarkana, Sulaimania Province, was also attacked.

On May 12, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani called on the Iraqi Security Forces to secure and protect all political party headquarters in Sulaimania Province. Barzani said in a statement that “we are concerned about the security situation in Sulaimania,” and appealed to the different parties, saying that they should “exercise restraint and submit their complaints on any doubts concerning the elections results to [IHEC].”

On May 13, Shorsh Haji, spokesman for the Gorran Movement, published pictures of the attack that hit the party’s headquarters in Sulaimania Province on May 12, 2018. Haji wrote on his Facebook page that “these are pictures of my office at the headquarters of the Gorran Movement in Sulaimania, because of the cowardly armed attack launched by the traitors of the [PUK] on the evening of 12/05/2018.”

On May 13, Sulaimania Provincial Council announced entering a state of emergency and it deployed all of its forces to the streets and public spaces throughout the province. The Council warned citizens to refrain from shooting in sign of celebration. The Police Directorate of Sulaimania Province said in a statement that “all security forces were placed in a state of full alert in all streets and neighborhoods and public places to protect the residents of the city.” The statement also called on citizens to “express their joy in a civilized manner and away from any action that may harm citizens,” adding that “any person who violates this will face the law and be punished.”


Polling Stations See Some Irregularities

On May 11, the Iraqi Bar Association announced that the union will deploy three thousand lawyers to monitor elections across Iraq on May 12. The union made a statement that “The Bar Association is preparing to deploy its observers across Iraq who volunteered to monitor the parliamentary elections.” The three thousand lawyers will publish reports about alleged violations of the neutrality of the election.

On May 11, the official media of the militia Saraya al-Salam, the military wing of the Sadrist movement, affirmed that its forces killed six ISIS suicide bombers during a preemptive operation in Balad District, Salah ad-Din Province. According to Saraya al-Salam’s media, the terrorists were targeting the Sayyed Muhammad shrine and polling stations in Balad District.

On May 12, President of the Iraqi Bar Association, Ahlam al-Lami, revealed the open campaigning of some candidates at polling stations in Baghdad, and said that some polling stations did not open on time. Among all of the recorded violations in the polling stations, she also mentioned that there are some centers that did not see any women present, suggesting that at some locations, “women are not allowed to enter and cast their votes.”

On May 12, it was reported that a number of polling stations in Baghdad and Erbil stopped working. According to an anonymous source in Baghdad, “one of the voting devices in a polling station in Dora district south of Baghdad stopped working.” The same situation happened to three polling stations in the east area of Baghdad and in Sadr City. According to a correspondent in Erbil, a polling station set up for displaced persons saw the failure of seven out of the 10 voting machines present, indicating that no displaced persons had voted so far.

On May 12, all of the voting machines in one voting center in Dhuluiya, Salah al-Din Province was reported to be disrupted and three voting machines in one voting center in Karbala was disrupted.

On May 12, an anonymous security source in Basra reported that Iraqi Security Forces fired warning shots into the air to disperse people who were promoting candidates near polling stations. The source said that “the security forces today fired a limited amount [of warning shots] in different parts of the province of Basra, to remove people who were promoting the election of candidates and entities near some polling stations in the province.” The source said that “among these areas are al-Jumhuriyah, the al-Zubayr District and al-Dyr,” adding that some of those who were actively campaigning were arrested.

On May 12, one voting center reopened in the Abbasiyah District of Najaf Province after a dispute between Fatah and Victory Alliance supporters over allegations of fraud. The altercation prompted security forces to close the center as a precaution. The dispute was settled after the intervention of the Governor of Najaf and security forces.

On May 13, Stephan Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, released a statement congratulating the Iraqi people on holding parliamentary elections on May 12, 2018. The statement read that “following the military defeat of [ISIS], the elections represent further progress in building a stronger Iraqi democracy.” The statement added that “the Secretary-General salutes the tireless efforts of the electoral officials, party agents, and the security forces in making the elections largely peaceful and orderly. He commends all Iraqis who took part, in particular those internally displaced persons who cast their ballots despite their difficult conditions.” It also called on “all Iraqi political actors and their supporters to uphold peace as the results are processed. [The Secretary-General] further urges political actors to resolve any electoral dispute through established legal channels and to complete the electoral process by forming an inclusive government as soon as possible. The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Iraq in this endeavor.”

On May 13, the Supreme Electoral Security Commission in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) called on citizens to refrain from using fireworks or shooting to celebrate elections results. The statement released by the Committee read that “no person or organization is allowed to shoot as a sign of celebration,” warning that anyone who would disobey the order would face legal consequences.

On May 14, supporters of a Ali al-Hajjami, a candidate for Parliament from Dhi Qar Province, demonstrated around the UN High Commission for Human Rights office building Nasiriyah, suggesting that election results were tampered with. Security forces secured the building to prevent violence.

On May 14, the spokesman for the UN High Commission for Human Rights, Fadhil al-Gharawi, said during a press conference in Baghdad that the High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq monitored the parliamentary elections for 2018 at three levels: election propaganda, ballot integrity, and counting and auditing.

On May 15, Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad arrested Jassim al-Hilfi, a civilian activist who participated in protests against corruption and called for the removal of corrupt politicians.  An anonymous source said that “security forces arrested today activist Jassim al-Hilfiat at one of the entrances to the Green Zone in central Baghdad.” The source added that “the reasons for the arrest are not known yet.”

On May 15, ISF released Jassim al-Hilfi a few hours after his arrest, together with Hussein al-Najjar, civilian activist and candidate with the Sadr Movement, and another unidentified person. According to an anonymous security source, the arrest was caused “by a similarity of names” and no further details were released.


Despite US Embassy Caution, Polling Stations Remained Safe on Election Day

On May 11, Shafaaq News reported that the U.S. embassy in Iraq warned of possible attacks targeting polling stations across Iraq during the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 12, 2018. The statement read that “the U.S. mission has received information of possible terrorist attacks against polling stations throughout Iraq, specifically in the Umm al-Qura and Ghazaliya neighborhoods of Baghdad. The Embassy has temporarily curtailed movement of its personnel to these areas.”

On May 11, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, minimized concerns about possible ISIS attacks on voting centers, saying that Iraq is an “attacker and no defender in its defiance to terrorism.” Rasool said that “the security plan was developed by the Iraqi security units, including the intelligence agencies, which are competent and able to reassure Iraqis, and they should not quit their voices and go to the polls.” He added that “security operations continue, as well as security and intelligence efforts, and Iraq has carried out and is still, important and quality operations, the last of which was the arrest of important and prominent [ISIS] leaders.”

On May 11, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi commented on the U.S. embassy warning against possible ISIS attacks on Iraqi polling stations, saying that the security services are leaders in protecting electoral centers from any possible attacks that might target them. During a speech to Iraqi citizens on the elections’ eve, Abadi said that “we will not allow any threat to the security and safety of our citizens.” He discouraged citizens from listening to “the propaganda of intimidation and disruption of the country”, adding that “the country is united and they will not be able to threaten its unity again.” Abadi pointed out that “we have ordered our security forces to protect the electoral process, voters and polling stations” and said that “they are able to protect you, they protected the homeland and eliminated the oppressor.”

On May 11, an official security source declared that the administration of Kirkuk Province decided to impose a curfew starting 12pm, as part of the plan to secure the election process for the Iraqi parliamentary elections. The source said that the curfew would last until further notice, suggesting that cars and motorcycles would be banned during curfew hours.

On May 11, an official security source said that an explosive device was found near the Shabha school in the Wahed Haziran, in the city of Kirkuk. The source said that the explosive was meant to target voters and it was discovered and detonated before it could explode.

On May 12, the Supreme Electoral Security Committee released a statement saying that it prevented a Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) member for firing at a voting center in Baji, approximately 120 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk. The man was later arrested by security authorities.

On May 12, an anonymous security source revealed that Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) foiled an ISIS attack that would have targeted voting centers in Diyala Province. The source said that “security forces killed two female suicide bombers this morning, who were wearing explosive belts and planning to target polling stations in the area near Jarf al-Mahl, north of Diyala Province.”

On May 12, security authorities in Diyala Province expelled a local official for trying to pressure citizens to vote for a candidate belonging to his coalition. According to an anonymous security source, ISF expelled the local official and all the members of his protection unit from a polling station in the Abu Sayda District, Diyala Province.

On May 12, the Iraqi Security Information Center denied media reports of ISF opening fire near a voting center and wounding a citizen. The statement issued by the Security Information Center read that “what was reported by some media about a voter being injured by [ISF] fire, charged with protecting the Rufaidah center, west of Baghdad, is not true.” The statement pointed out that “the real issue was a quarrel between one of the fighters assigned to protect the centers and voters who were not committed to the security instructions, and the issue was settled peacefully and they reconciled.” The statement also reiterated that “the security forces reserve the right to retaliate and take necessary legal action against false and fabricated news.”

On May 12, the Baghdad Operations Command announced the success of the of the security plan to protect voters in the capital, as no incidents were recorded. Major General Jalil al-Rubaie, Baghdad Operations Commander, said that “as a result of the efforts exerted by all the security services in the Baghdad Operations Command, we declare the success of the security plan for the election of the Iraqi [Parliament]”, adding that “I have directly supervised the implementation of the security plan. There have been no security violation in the Karkh, Rusafa and Baghdad belt areas, which included 1828 election centers.”

On May 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the reopening of Iraqi airspace and airports. Abadi’s media office released a brief statement saying that “the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the opening of the airspace and airports in Iraq, ahead of air traffic.” On May 9, 2018, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority had declared the closure of all the ports of entry and airports during the elections, effective from May 11, 2018.

On May 12, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi lifted the ban on vehicle movement in all provinces, while authorizing operations leaders to impose a partial ban in areas which were still under security threat. The statement released by Abadi’s media office read that “the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces ordered the lifting of the ban on vehicles movement in all provinces.” The statement also added that “the commanders of operations imposed a partial ban in the areas that have a security threat, according to the assessment of the security and intelligence services.”

On May 12, the Supreme Electoral Security Committee announced the implementation of the directive issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to lift the ban on vehicles movement within the provinces. The Committee said in a television statement that “the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Haider al-Abadi has lifted the ban on vehicles movement inside the provinces.”

On May 13, The Secretary General of Asaib Ahl al-Haq Qais al-Khazali, said one of the reasons for the weak participation in the elections to “intimidation” broadcast by the US Embassy in Baghdad, while calling for the formation of a government away from quotas and corruption.


Second Attack in Two Weeks Hits Tarmiyah

On May 16, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt inside a funeral home in Tarmiyah, approximately 60 kilometers north of Baghdad. An anonymous source said that ISF and ambulances rushed to the scene to transport injured people to the hospital.

On May 16, an anonymous police source said that seven people died and 25 were injured in the attack that hit a funeral home in Tarmiyah, approximately 60 kilometers north of Baghdad. The source said that “the final outcome of the suicide bombing, which occurred with an explosive belt near a funeral home in the area of Hasaywa in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, reached seven dead and 25 wounded.”

On May 16, United Nations (UN) Acting Special Representative of Secretary-General for Iraq, Alicia Walpole, condemned the terrorist attack that took place in Tarmiyah, approximately 60 kilometers north of Baghdad. She said in a statement that “after their military defeat, remnants of [ISIS] terrorist organization continue to seek to destabilise Iraq. With total disregard for human and religious values, these terrorists targeted a group of mourners receiving condolences, and they struck on the eve of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan. It was a despicable act. But, as in the past, they will fail to dampen the independent, democratic spirit of the Iraqi people, who are looking ahead to a future of peace and prosperity.” Walpole also added that “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed, and I wish the injured a rapid recovery.”


Iraq Condemns US Embassy Move in Israel

On May 14, influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said in a Tweet that the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem “is a disgrace of colonialism and global arrogance.” Sadr sent the Twitter message ahead of the opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, which is scheduled to take place on the anniversary of the declaration of the “State of Israel” coinciding with the Palestinian Nakba. U.S. President Donald Trump described the inauguration of the new embassy in Jerusalem as “the great day for Israel.”

On May 14, the official Egyptian news agency Asharq Al-Awsatdi quoted a source saying that the Arab League decided to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday, May 16 to discuss the “illegal” move of the U.S.’s transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Arab League has 22 members including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Syria (suspended).

On May 14, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry announced that the transfer of the U.S. Embassy in Israel is an “unacceptable and flagrant violation of international resolutions and the path of peace,” while warning of serious consequences for the stability of the region and the negative impact on the political and security situation. Ahmed Mahjoub, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said that “what is going on today…is unacceptable and angers hundreds of millions of Arabs, Muslims, and Christians around the world.”

On May 15, President of Iraq, Fuad Masum, condemned the killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli security forces, while reiterating Iraq’s disapproval of the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Masum said that “Iraq fully rejects the use of violence in the face of peaceful marches demanding legitimate and just rights. Iraq fully supports the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, especially the right to establish its independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
05/16/2018Tarmiyah, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad725
05/14/2018Dibs, 45 kilometers northwest of Kirkuk30
05/14/2018Akashat, 400 kilometers northwest of Ramadi02
05/13/2018Khanaqin, 209 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk10
05/13/2018Badush, 30 kilometers northwest of Mosul11
05/13/2018Hawija, 66 kilometers west of Kirkuk23
05/13/2018Khanaqin, 209 kilometers southeast of Kirkuk10
05/12/2018Hawija, 66 kilometers west of Kirkuk30
05/12/2018Baiji, 120 kilometers west of Kirkuk43

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.


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