Germany Sets up Voting Stations for Iraqis

With just over two weeks to go before elections in Iraq, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has announced plans to allow expatriate Iraqis to vote in fourteen countries around the world.

photo: dpa
Iraqis register in Berlin

​​As part of a program to ensure maximum voter participation, the IOM has signed agreements with the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States to allow Iraqis to vote from abroad.

"We are very pleased that all of the countries identified by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq have now agreed to support Iraq's out-of-country voting, allowing as many Iraqis as possible to vote," IOM Director, Peter Erben said.

Tight security

As part of the initiative, for two days at the end of January, the 56,000 Iraqi citizens living in Germany will be able to cast their ballot in four locations around the country. Security at the polling stations in the cities of Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Mannheim will be under tight security.

Preparations are already underway at a former airfield in Cologne, which will serve as one of the out-of-country voting locations. In preparation for the event, the whole area has been cordoned off, several buildings have been searched and sealed by explosives experts.

They won't be opened again until January 17, when both Iraqi citizens and refugees who no longer have a passport, but have retained the right to citizenship will roll up to register as voters. Iraqis residing in nearby Belgium will also be allowed to vote at the Cologne polling station.

A climate of violence

Although there are less than 3,000 Iraqi citizens resident in Berlin, some 12,000 are expected to turn out to cast their ballot at the polling station in the German capital. Security there will be tight too, but a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said there was no concrete danger of attacks during the two days of elections in Germany.

In light of the continuing violence in Iraq, the European Parliament has decided not to send observers to monitor the vote, despite a specific request to do so by the transitional government in Baghdad.

In the first official voter turn-out, a member of the election committee in the Iraqi capital said they were expecting to see fifty percent of the 15 million strong population cast their ballot.

"That's not bad. There are elections in Europe with just 40 percent voter turn-out. We're no worse than Europe," Farid Ajar, a member of the election committee said.