Washington, D.C: May 14, 2010. International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the election results for five Christian seats in the Iraqi parliament will be further delayed.
Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) stated that poll results from the March 7 election were sent to the Supreme Court for final ratification this week. However, the province of Baghdad is encountering setbacks as a vote recount is underway after political parties made allegations of fraud and corruption in the initial counting process.
The five seats designated for Christian representatives are on hold, and will not be revealed until the Baghdad votes are recounted and approved by the Supreme Court.
In an interview with ICC, Yonadam Kanna, Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and an Iraqi Parliament member, said that, "There are five seats for Christians in the Parliament guaranteed. There is potential for more than five if enough votes come in. Every vote is priceless during these elections.”
However, reports indicated that approximately 30 percent of ballots submitted by Iraqi-Americans, many of whom are Christian, were rejected by the Out-of-Country Voting (OCV) program. “One seat was stolen from us through obstacles created in front of Diaspora voters,” said Mr. Kanna.
Yet, despite challenges, the Assyrian community hopes that the election results will lead to greater representation in the Iraqi parliament – the first step to equal rights for this Iraqi minority. “We will receive legitimacy and representation for our community in the Iraqi Parliament,” said Mr. Kanna. “We will also be in a much better legal condition, and much more respected than we were under the persecution and discrimination policies of Saddam times. We are full with hope that all together we will be able to do much more than we had achieved in the last seven years.”
Juliana Taimoorazy, President of Iraqi Christian Relief Council, believes that Christian representation in parliament is a first step in establishing a democratic Iraqi State. "The Chaldo-Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq, are a critical entity to the democratic process. They offer political and religious diversity, yet work to find commonalities between religious parties. Christianity in Iraq is also viewed as a bridge between the Islamic Middle East and the Christian West, a helpful medium to reconcile a history of differences.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "Iraqi Christians are still being targeted by Sunni Muslim insurgents, again shown when two bombs were detonated on school buses carrying Christian students last week. The delay of the electoral commission to quickly appoint Christian representatives in the Iraqi parliament has contributed to the government’s failure to adequately respond to sectarian attacks against Christians, and to provide security which is essential to protect Iraqi Christians. It is of vital importance that Christian seats in parliament are filled quickly. If not, political disputes will flow into the streets of Iraq, and minorities will pay a high price.”