UN mission in Iraq extended, widened to observe October vote

By: AFP      Published: 09:28 PM, 27 May, 2021
UN mission in Iraq extended, widened to observe October vote

The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously voted to extend the mandate of its mission in Iraq and to expand it to cover monitoring of legislative elections set for October 10, acceding -- in part -- to a request from Baghdad.

The mission, known as the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), will now run through May 27, 2022, according to a resolution drafted by the United States.

It calls for a "strengthened, robust and visible UN team, with additional staff, in advance of Iraq's forthcoming election, to monitor Iraq's election day with as broad a geographic coverage as possible."

The world body's help should come in a "manner that respects Iraqi sovereignty," the text says.

Baghdad "wanted more," including a "full observation mission" for the elections, a diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity. 

But what the Council agreed upon was in keeping with its usual practice, the diplomat said, adding that some members were hesitant to accept a larger role, fearing the UN would end up taking on too much responsibility for the vote.

According to the resolution, UNAMI should "engage, encourage, and coordinate with, and provide, as appropriate, logistical and security support to international and regional third-party observers invited by the government of Iraq."

The mission will also be asked to "launch a UN strategic messaging campaign to educate, inform, and update Iraqi voters on election preparations, and UN activities in support of elections in advance of and on election day," the text says.

During a recent Council meeting on Iraq held by videoconference, the UN special representative to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, asked authorities in Baghdad to "uphold the integrity of the electoral process."

Killings, attempted murder and abductions have targeted more than 70 activists since a protest movement erupted against government corruption and incompetence in 2019.

"These elections were a central demand of the protest movement; and yet, many of its members continue to be persecuted with rampant impunity," she said earlier this month.

"The failure to hold credible elections would cause significant, lasting, widespread anger and disillusionment, which in turn could further destabilize the country at a time where strength and unity are desperately needed," the UN envoy warned.