Shiite elders gathered for an election campaign event listen to a candidate from list 336 near Najaf, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad. Iraq's national election is scheduled for March 7. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Iraqis in the UAE will join their fellow expatriates around the world in casting their ballots, as 136 voting centres will be established in 16 countries.

Overseas polling centres are being established in the UAE, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Australia, USA, Sweden, Egypt, Canada, Denmark, Lebanon, Turkey, UK, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The stations will be open from March 5-7.

The special commission for overseas voters based in Arbil in the north of Iraq was formed to oversee voting abroad. The committee comprises legal consultants and a general manager.

The commissioners are Surdar Abdul Kareem, Eyad Al Kinani, Sa'ad Al Rawi and Executive Director Miqdad Al Sharifi.

No exact figures

Speaking to Gulf News from Arbil, Al Sharifi said it is not known exactly how many Iraqis abroad are eligible to vote. "According to the UN organisation dealing with refugees, the number is around 1,992,000."

Syria has the largest Iraqi expatriate population.

"Syria, which hosts around 280,000 Iraqis, has approved the establishment of 32 centres that will manage 167 stations spread over the main cities and towns in the country. The second largest presence of the commission is in Jordan, with 25 centres managing 150 stations in the kingdom," he said.

Ballot boxes and other items have been sent from Iraq to these countries. Staff received training in the host countries to ensure the best results in manning the stations.

The registration of voters and casting of votes will be conducted simultaneously in each of the stations and centres abroad.

"Iraqi nationals living in the host countries with valid Iraqi travel documents and identity cards will be able to cast their votes after identifying the governorate in Iraq from where they originate," he said.

Representatives of political blocs will be allowed to be present in the polling stations during these three days, provided they have official authorisation from the political bloc and they can prove their identity as per their authorisation certificate. They will not be allowed to interfere in the process or exert any kind of pressure on the voters.

Media representatives should also be accredited by the heads of centres in the host countries. Hundreds of journalists and photographers have already been accredited.

As per the law, the 6,172 candidates have equal rights to hold their electoral campaigns in the host countries, provided the governments in the host countries approve their campaigns. Campaigning has been ordered to stop at 7am local time on March 4 in each of the host countries.

Anyone who violates of the rules governing elections in Iraq will face punishment under Iraqi law, even if the crime is committed in a foreign country.

Centres in the UAE

Udai Talal, chief of the commission in the UAE, told Gulf News the commission is managing two polling centres in the country. The first, with 20 polling stations, will be located in Dubai and the second, with 15 voting stations, in Abu Dhabi.

He said the UAE government was in favour of voting taking place at the Iraqi Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the country's consulate in Dubai. "The commission informed the government here that the two locations cannot be used as polling stations because they can not guarantee the transparency and the fairness of the election, as per the law," Talal said.

"We believe that the number of Iraqis has decreased in the UAE in the recent months because some Iraqis residing here have opted to go back home."

Convenient: Voting in the UAE

- Who is eligible to vote?
Iraqi citizens with valid travel documents and ID cards

- Where are polling stations?
The commission has asked the UAE authorites to allocate Al Ahli Sport Club in Dubai as the Northern Emirates Centre and Shaikh Zayed Sport City as a polling centre for Iraqis living in Abu Dhabi emirate, but the authorities have yet to authorise this.

- What are the hours of operation for the polling stations?
Polling stations will be open from 8am to 5pm.

How many eligible voters are there in the UAE?
Between 75,000 and 94,000


Have your say
Are you an Iraqi in the UAE? Are you voting during this election? Or are you planning on boycotting the polls? Tell us by clicking the "Post a comment" link below.