The following commentary originally appeared on Musings On Iraq
Iraq’s refugees appear to have little interest in the passage of the new provincial election law. As reported earlier, Iraqis have had since July to register. Iraq’s external refugees can’t vote, but the internally displaced can, and they need to sign up on a special list. The Wall Street Journal said that 100,000 of Iraq’s estimated 2.7 million internal refugees had registered. The Institute for War & Peace Reporting claimed that only 72,000 have so far. This is despite a government public relations campaign aimed at the displaced. Posters have been put up throughout Baghdad for example, encouraging them to register for the upcoming election. A major problem seems to be widespread apathy amongst Iraqis over the vote. A member of the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance said that the government’s inability to improve the living conditions of many average Iraqis was a major reason why citizens were not enthusiastic about registering. This would be doubly true for Iraq’s refugees. The head of parliament’s Displacement and Migration Committee said that only 20,000 families, roughly 120,000 people had come back to Iraq so far, with half going to Baghdad. Many have come back from other countries because they have run out of money or because of the new restrictions that have been placed on Iraqis. Many of those that have returned, have found their homes occupied, destroyed, or militias controlling their neighborhoods, leading to more internally displaced as families are forced to other areas. Faced with those problems it’s no wonder that so few of Iraq’s domestic refugees have signed up to vote.
Abouzeid, Rania, “Growing Apathy Toward Iraqi Elections,” Time, 9/5/08
Chon, Gina and Naji, Zaineb, “Iraq Drive for Voters Lags,” Wall Street Journal, 9/18/08
IRIN, “Parliament demands financial help for IDPs, refugees,” 9/25/08
Naji, Zaineb, “Voter Apathy Among Iraq Displaced,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 9/24/08
Voices of Iraq, “IHEC opens 563 voter registration update centers – UNAMI,” 7/15/08