New Iraqi election devices easier to tamper with votes, Kurdish official warns
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The new electronic ballot-counting device for the upcoming Iraqi elections is easy to be programmed and could be used to tamper votes from one party to another, an official from the Kurdistan Region’s electoral commission warned on Wednesday.
Iraqi parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on May 12 across the country. It is the first time Iraq will use an electronic vote counter. Voters are still required to place their votes on paper ballots, but machines will do the counting.
“An electronic system for elections is good, but it should be used in a country that has the rule of law—in a country that does not have militias or some political parties which have full control over the system,” Ismael Khurmali, the Kurdistan Region’s Election Commission Council’s decision-maker, told Kurdistan 24.
Many people in the country believe the new electronic devices will prevent fraud in the Iraqi elections, but Khurmali disagrees. He mentioned that the Kurdish parties had approved the use of the device, but he was against it.
“This technology can be used in the interest of one party or more. There is a possibility that some people would devote the votes from one party to another when they electronically send it to the main server in Baghdad because those who are on the server are not neutral or independent people. Thus, the result of the elections can be changed easily,” Khurmali said.
“Previously, they said with the new electronic machine, once the voting time is over, the results will be announced in less than an hour. It is true; you could do that because it is electronic and the counting can easily be done on the main server,” the Kurdish official explained.
“But what I hear from Iraq’s electoral commission now is that the result of the elections will not be announced on the first day. This is very suspicious and dangerous. The question is why?”
In past Iraqi elections, the electoral commission has repeatedly been criticized for not being independent and failing to prevent fraud from taking place in the elections.
According to Khurmali, with the current electronic counting machine, fraud has become easier for the parties.
“If in the past you needed thousands of people to commit fraud in the elections, now you just need some programming codes to change and manipulate the result of the elections.”
He noted that many experts in that field had reaffirmed his point that changing the number of votes or devoting it from one party to another is possible through coding.
The Kurdish official also questioned why South Korea would provide Iraq with the technology but would not use it for their own country’s elections if the devices were, in fact, transparent and internationally recognized.
He explained that technology is useful and improves the efficiency of the work, “but the problem lies in the bad intentions of those who use the machine in Iraq.”
Thousands of local and foreign supervisors will be present at ballot stations across Iraq to monitor the election process, but to Khurmali, their supervision will not help.
“One of the duties of supervisors in the elections is to monitor the result, but with this new electronic system, they cannot monitor effectively because the ballot boxes will electronically show the data which indicates how many votes have been registered in total and to which parties they belong to.”
He claims that without manual vote counting, supervisors cannot monitor the tallying process. Hence, they cannot issue complaints of any violations that might take place electronically via codes.
The possibility of fraud is a concern when it comes to elections in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Many efforts taken in the past to prevent such violations have been unsuccessful.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany