Iraqi voters in Jordan few but cautiously optimistic
"I’m an Iraqi. I have the right to vote and my vote is important," said one woman at a polling station in Jordan — even though she doesn’t plan on returning to Iraq. "I don’t need to go back to Iraq in order to want Iraq to develop and do better. I hope my ...
"I’m an Iraqi. I have the right to vote and my vote is important," said one woman at a polling station in Jordan — even though she doesn’t plan on returning to Iraq. "I don’t need to go back to Iraq in order to want Iraq to develop and do better. I hope my vote will make a difference." Visiting Iraqi polling places in Jordan this week, I saw a cross-section of the Iraqis who are living here. Their stories suggested a mix of hope and resignation — and no clear answer to whether and when they may return home.
The Iraqi electoral commission’s Out of Country Voting Administration Office in Jordan was not authorized to release the number of people who voted, according to Jordan Country Director Nihad Abbas Zaynal. The often-reported figure of "180,000 Iraqi voters" in Jordan was always implausible. Independent surveys suggest there aren’t even that many Iraqis in the country. And because voter registration is taking place at the polls rather than in advance, there was no basis for election officials to make any estimate of possible turnout, Zaynal said. In the end, according to the Iraqi Higher Electoral Commission, only 24,717 Iraqis actually voted in Jordan, compared to about 35,000 in the last such vote held in Jordan.
Observed turnout varied widely among the 16 polling centers. The polling station in the relatively wealthy area of Tla’ Al Ali easily hosted several thousand voters throughout the first day of polling, while those in Al-Hashemi Al-Shamali and Jabal Amman only appeared to host a few hundred.
The voting in Jordan seemed well-run: security was tight but not overwhelming, and the same procedures seemed to be followed across the board. There were about 1200 independent monitors registered, according to Zaynal — 300 from NGOs and embassies and 900 from political organizations. One Iraqi voter said he’d heard rumors about faked ballots, but others said they didn’t believe any kind of corruption would be allowed in the Jordanian polls. Another complained of confusion after being told that she could only vote for candidates in her home town of Mosul and not for Ayad Allawi himself. Zaynal said the voting office was looking into these stories, but that no official complaints had been made.
I spoke with a number of Iraqis as they gathered around the voting station. Some were staunch supporters of Sunni parties, who were demanding a "more representative" government; others thought the last government had done fairly well. I wouldn’t venture a guess as to who will win the Jordanian vote. Most said they moved to Jordan because of the violence and insecurity in Iraq. Some have applied for resettlement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while others hope to return to Iraq one day. Others said they commuted back and forth regularly, and one said he had come to the country just to vote. "If this election succeeds, and everything goes well, and the people who deserve to be the rulers of Iraq succeed…yes, I will definitely [go back]," said one young man. But how representative he is of his fellow refugees is as uncertain as their votes.
Nicholas Seeley is an Amman-based journalist and the editor of JO Magazine.
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