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Iraq: Kurdistan Election Official Confident About Referendum Security

On 19 September, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent Shamal Ramadan interviewed Kamal Ghambar, head of the Irbil office of the Iraqi High Independent Election Commission.

Kamal Ghambar (on the role of the election commission): We have...given interviews to many satellite and local channels, radios, and newspapers. We have been registering high numbers of clerks [willing to work at polling stations in the referendum ballot]. In Irbil governorate, we need more than 3,000 clerks. Priority is being given to school principals and, especially, to lawyers. In this way, we want to give a democratic character to the referendum. The process [of the clerks' registration] started on Wednesday 14 September and concludes today, 19 September. We have registered high numbers [of clerks]; the required limit has even been exceeded at some polling stations. At one polling station, we needed 500 clerks but, instead, 1,500 clerks enrolled there.... This is because the referendum on the constitution is an important and historic issue. It will be for the first time in the history of Iraq and Kurdistan that masses of people will do this. Everybody will have the chance to say "Yes" or "No" to the constitution. This is why everything must be prepared for the day of [the referendum on] 15 October. We will have to allocate and distribute the resources necessary for the referendum process, as a deadline of 12-14 October has been set for us. If conditions allow, the distribution will be complete by 11 October, or even by 10 October.

RFI: Do you expect any foreign observers to arrive, be they from the countries of the region, international NGOs, or the UN, to watch over the referendum process?

Ghambar: Concerning observers, there used to be some anxiety. If observers come to Iraq from abroad, the [Iraqi High Independent Election] Commission is not allowed to facilitate their mission or to protect them. Of course, they are responsible for themselves..... [But this time around] I expect high numbers of foreign observers to come to Iraq, and especially to Kurdistan, which is an enclave enjoying security and tranquility. There is no need to fear now because polling stations are guarded and secured by the Special Protection Forces [referring to units affiliated in the past with the Kurdistan Democratic Party guerilla fighters, currently being formally incorporated into the Iraqi Army] provided by the Irbil administration's Interior Ministry. Irbil city is now the capital of [the autonomous region of] Kurdistan and the second capital in Iraq and has been enjoying a very good security situation so nothing should happen during the vote.

(Translation by Petr Kubalek)