‘Critical’ period ahead as Iraq gears up for upcoming polls, says UN envoy
14 November 2008 – Iraq is entering a critical period as it prepares for upcoming provincial polls, which provide an
opportunity to shape a new political landscape in the fledgling democracy, a top United Nations envoy said today, while
cautioning that the potential for election-related violence and instability remains.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, told a meeting of the Security Council that
the summer and fall have witnessed, despite some occasional spikes, a steady reduction in the levels of violence in
However, there was also some political tensions as a result of the initial stalemate over the provincial elections law
in July and the issues of minority representation in the elections.
“Iraq now enters a delicate electoral period where every small security gain is likely to give space to political
dialogue should be built upon in order to avoid any electoral-related violence linked to the provincial elections of 31
January 2009,” Mr. de Mistura stated.
“Iraqis should not relent in grasping the momentum to advance on gains attained in 2008,” he told the 15-member body.
“The international community,” he added, “should in this critical period stand firm in its support and constructive
re-engagement, and the UN will continue to be by the Iraqis’ side in this delicate and challenging transition towards
Electoral assistance has been the “flagship” of the efforts of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which is
headed by Mr. de Mistura.
He noted that the Mission is assisting Iraqis and the Independent High Electoral Commission – an Iraqi institution
responsible for preparing and conducting elections – with a series of electoral events, starting with provincial
elections in the immediate future and culminating with parliamentary elections in 2009-2010.
“The forthcoming elections are rightly viewed as an opportunity to establish a more inclusive sectarian balance and
shape a new political landscape and are the most significant political event in the coming months,” he said.
“It is therefore all the more important to ensure that they be perceived as free and fair, and that the Iraqis, with the
support of the United Nations and the international community, be able to ensure respect of operational timelines, with
an IHEC free of political pressure,” he added.
UNAMI played a vital role in supporting the passage in September of the country’s electoral law, as well as the
subsequent amendment providing for minority representation in Iraq.
“Although the adopted amendment to the electoral law did not reflect entirely UNAMI’s formulation of numbers it includes
some of its elements. Its adoption by majority open vote witnessed democracy in action and contributes to furthering
respect for human rights and democracy in Iraq,” Mr. de Mistura noted.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Special Representative pointed out that Iraqis will have quite a number of
elections ahead of them in the coming year. But “ballots are much better than bullets,” he stressed.
He reiterated that there has been a “substantial” improvement in security in recent months. “Otherwise we would not be
able to even think about having elections next year, and we are seriously planning for that,” he said.
In addition to assisting the preparations for elections, UNAMI has also been laying the seeds for a resolution to
disputed internal boundaries, supporting the national development strategies and facilitating Iraq’s partnership with
the international community and its neighbours.
“The past year was dedicated to identifying opportunities in priority areas most likely to yield timely results; the
next year will be the time to consolidate the progress that has been made,” Mr. de Mistura said in his briefing to the