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Kurdistan completes biometric voter registration amid delayed elections

Kurdistan completes biometric voter registration amid delayed elections

The Iraqi region of Kurdistan is still awaiting its long-overdue parliamentary elections despite ongoing political strife, the process of registering voters with biometric cards has been concluded.

Three million voters have renewed their biometric cards, though some are yet to receive them, Bas News reported last week. At the beginning of May, authorities announced they had printed almost 819,000 new biometric cards, of which over 290,000 have been returned to voters and more than 528,000 remain to be distributed.

Approximately 3.8 million voters are eligible for the Kurdistan Region Parliament election which has been rescheduled several times since October 2022. The latest postponement pushed the date of the elections from June 10 until fall 2024.

The latest rescheduling comes after disputes among the region’s political parties,  including those related to biometric voting.

Kurdistan approved its new voter registration system in March 2023 with Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) mandating exclusive use of electronic biometric cards for voting. However, one of the region’s two dominant parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has claimed that the rule would affect the results of the elections as most of its voters use temporary cards as a replacement for biometric voter IDs.

The dispute was further fueled by inconsistencies in voter registration data between the Iraqi Federal Census Bureau and the Kurdistan Census Bureau and disagreements over the region’s new constituency system. The argument reached boiling point on March 18 with KDP announcing that it would boycott the elections.

That same month, Kurdistan’s President Nechirvan Barzani raised concerns to Iraq’s electoral commission over voting machines not recognizing voter fingerprints. The agency responded that issues relating to fingerprints and voting machines are to be expected, adding that around nine to 15 percent of voters in Iraq also have trouble with the machines recognizing their fingerprints.

The KDP demanded that voters with unreadable fingerprints should be allowed to repeat the voting, a condition for their participation in the elections. The party claimed that the voting machines did not recognize the fingerprints of around 400,000 individuals, making up approximately 20 percent of all eligible voters.

KDP finally confirmed its participation in the elections in June, after the IHEC and the Iraqi Federal Court finally agreed to introduce changes in some of the election’s mechanisms. The new date for the elections is expected to be set between October and November, Kurdistan 24 reports.

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