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The upcoming October 15 constitution referendum will, for the first time in their history, give Iraqis the opportunity to accept or reject a new constitution.
The Iraqi government is moving to secure polling places and has pledged to respect the will of the voters and treat allegations of vote tampering seriously.
Continuous violence in the country, however, has deterred international organizations from mounting major monitoring missions. The Carter Center, for example, which has monitored dozens of overseas elections,did not observe the January elections and will not monitor the October referendum. There are, however, several prominent organizations assisting and advising monitoring groups within Iraq in the run-up to next week’s vote. They are:
The United Nations
The UN Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) is working closely with the International Electoral Commission in Iraq—the government group organizing the elections—by providing technical and planning support for next week’s referendum. About forty-five foreign specialists working for the EAD offered advice and assistance and distributed almost two million kilos of materials, such as ballots, polling boxes, and voter screens.
The International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IMIE)
The IMIE was established in December 2004 to monitor the electoral process in Iraq. The organization is led by a steering committee of members of independent election commission members and electoral experts from around the world. The IMIE has published an extensive report on the conduct and outcome of the January elections, and it will continue to monitor and assist Iraqis throughout the upcoming elections.
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)
The NDI, an non-governmental organization (NGO) linked to the U.S. Democratic Party, which provides practical assistance to civic and political leaders, has several programs in Iraq that aim to strengthen political parties and civil society development. Their election program assists “domestic nonpartisan election monitors” through monitoring training programs and educating voters. They work very closely with the Iraqi Election Information network and trained more than 9,000 monitors for the January 2005 election.
Iraqi Election Information Network (EIN)
The EIN is a domestic NGO dedicated to promoting democracy, transparency, and free and fair elections. The EIN acted as the domestic umbrella monitor for the January 2005 elections and is dedicated to observing all local, district, parliamentary, and presidential elections.
International Republican Institute (IRI)
While the IRI—a U.S. NGO that works to promote democratic ideals—will not monitor the elections, the group has tried to improve civic and political rights of Iraqis through public outreach, like political party training seminars and other education programs. Like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the IRI has party affiliations – in this case, links with the U.S. Republican Party. (U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, is chairman of its board of directors). Last month, the IRI conducted a public opinion poll (PowerPoint), which found that a majority of Iraqis planned to vote in the referendum.
The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP)
The Egyptian-based ACIJLP, an NGO that works to promote justice and human rights in the Arab region, has signed on to monitor the referendum. They are one of the few Arab organizations observing the election.
Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI)
The IECI is the main Iraqi body in charge of preparing and conducting elections in Iraq. The IECI has hired more than 100,000 polling staff across the country to carry out public outreach and awareness leading up to all elections, from local to presidential. According to the IECI, thousands of individual monitors have already been registered to observe the election.