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Iraqis vote in Jordan

After a tumultuous election day in Iraq that saw at least 34 people killed in dozens of explosions throughout the country, outside the country voting for Iraqis in Jordan concluded with little incident.

Home to the second largest population of Iraqi refugees, Jordan was one of 16 nations that hosted out-of-country voting for Iraqis. While organizers initially estimated that up to 200,000 Iraqis could vote in Jordan, following three days of voting here officials would only say that the turn out was “good,” without specifying exact figures.

For Iraqis in Jordan, today’s election marked an important step for their home country, but few believed that it would bring about any serious change.

Iraqis vote in Jordan
An Iraqi refugee casts her ballot in Amman, Jordan.
(Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

“We’ve been electing governments for four or five years now and we still haven’t seen a lot from them, but I think this time it will be better,” said Ali Dulami, who fled Iraq in 2006 and now studies computer science in Amman. “Things are getting better in Baghdad, so hopefully these guys are going to do better.”

Other Iraqis offered a more cynical view of the election. Only hours before the polls closed on the final day of voting, Jasmine Amer questioned whether it was even worth her time to vote.

“I’m hesitating to vote because it’s pointless. It won’t change anything,” she said. “I’m not optimistic about these elections or that things will change for the better. There’s been war in Iraq for seven years and nothing has changed, so I don’t think things will change for at least three or four years.”

Of the Iraqis still in Jordan, only a small number say they’ve seen enough positive change within Iraq to make them consider returning. Even if the security situation weren’t an issue, many Iraqi refugees say that the country’s central services such as electricity and clean water are too unreliable to make them think about going back to Iraq now.

Lamees Al-Sultan currently lives in Virginia and decided to vote while visiting family in Amman. Her husband works as a translator for the U.S. military in Iraq. Though she trusts the new government will be able to improve Iraq, she estimates that it will be at least 10 years before she could safely return to Iraq, if it all.

“It’s hard to change Iraq because there are so many religions and so much fighting there. We need a strong leader,” she said.

While there were no security incidents in Jordan, rumors circulated about candidates buying votes. Ali Adnan Ali, an Iraqi construction worker and polling station observer, said that he knew of Iraqis who’d been offered between $100 and $200 and phone cards to vote for various candidates.

“There’s a lot of people who’ve been ignored by [international aid groups] so it’s easy to buy their votes, especially if they’re unemployed,” said Ali. He added that he doubted vote buying was prevalent enough to affect the election results.

Election officials denied the rumors, saying they’d seen no evidence of voting irregularities or other fraudulent practices.

“If people want to complain they must file an official complaint and we haven’t received anything yet,” said Nihad Abbas, head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in Jordan.

Anyone concerned about fraud or other voting problems will have two days to file an official complaint.

To encourage Iraqis to vote, the Jordanian security forces protecting election sites did not verify whether Iraqis had the appropriate visa and documentation to legally reside in Jordan.