ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi official said on Thursday that the nation's electoral commission was allotting time to update voter lists for two provinces in preparation for the nation's next local elections, currently scheduled to be held in 2020.
Riyadh al-Badran, the spokesperson for the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and a member of the Board of Commissioners, said that both government bodies to which he belonged had "decided to open a new period to update the register of voters in the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh exclusively."
The decision, he said, "was based on the exceptional circumstances experienced by the two provinces in regard to internal displacement and to ensure voters vote in their new areas of residence in these two provinces."
Badran called on displaced voters "who are entitled to vote in the two provinces to update their data in the voters' register and to change their polling stations to those who wish to vote at polling stations close to their new areas of residence."
Between 2014 and late 2017, the Islamic State occupied significant portions of both provinces, causing residents to flee and leading to a great deal of confusion and controversy in the May 2018 national elections. After the vote, multiple political parties accused others of taking advantage of the displacement to commit voter fraud.
Additionally, Kirkuk and much of Nineveh consist of territories disputed by Iraq's federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
A full accounting of regional populations is crucial for elections, planning, and budgeting for any nation. In Iraq, where such land disputes have proven to be near-unsolvable and campaigns of mass displacement and ethnic cleansing have been endemic to conflict for decades, voter lists and censuses take on political significance.
In Kirkuk, especially, this has added to the difficulty of addressing fundamental disagreements and has caused the province to go without a local election since 2005.
In mid-June, IHEC announced that they would be held across the country, including Kirkuk, on April 20, 2020. It was the second time the date had been changed this year.
In January, Iraq's Planning Ministry said that a full government census would begin by the end of 2020. The nation's last census was held in 1997 and did not include the Kurdistan Region.