Rebuilding Iraq:

U.S. Assistance for the January 2005 Elections

GAO-05-932R: Published: Sep 7, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 2005.

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Fostering a democratic and publicly elected government in Iraq is a U.S. foreign policy priority. According to the President, the United States intends to help Iraq achieve democracy and has a vital national interest in the success of free institutions in Iraq. Toward that end, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) transferred power to a sovereign Iraqi interim government on June 28, 2004. With assistance from the United Nations (UN) and international community, the interim government held a national election for a transitional National Assembly on January 30, 2005. To help Iraq prepare for this election, the United States obligated approximately $130 million to provide assistance to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI), Iraqi nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and political entities. Much of this assistance is directed at not only the January 30 elections but also the two subsequent elections--a constitutional referendum and political election--scheduled before the end of 2005. As part of our effort to monitor Iraq reconstruction, we have gathered information on efforts to support Iraq's political transition. This report was initiated under the Comptroller General's statutory authority and is being addressed to the committees of jurisdiction. In particular, this report provides information on (1) U.S. assistance to Iraq for the elections and (2) improvements in the elections process that participating organizations identified for future elections.

The United States obligated approximately $130 million for nonsecurity assistance to help Iraq undertake elections in 2005. The largest U.S.-funded area of nonsecurity election assistance was $41.1 million awarded by USAID to IFES to provide technical expertise directly to the IECI to help it conduct the elections and make key procurements. The Department of State provided $30 million to NDI and IRI to advise, train, and help organize democratically oriented political parties. Both USAID and the Department of State funded $25.2 million of voter education efforts in Iraq, with grants obligated to IRI, Voice for Humanity, and Iraqi NGOs to conduct voter outreach. USAID provided an additional grant of $14.2 million to IFES to build an Iraqi NGO network to identify and monitor elections-related violence. USAID also obligated $14 million to NDI to develop an Iraqi NGO domestic elections monitor network. The United States sought the participation of Iraqi women in elections with $5.8 million from the Department of State and through USAID's integrated gender strategy. The United States, through the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I), also helped the Iraqi government provide security to conduct the elections. The UN, which coordinated assistance from the international community, convened a post-elections conference that included IECI, IFES, UN, and USAID officials to assess preparations for the January 30, 2005, elections and to identify areas needing improvement before the next elections. Conference participants identified overall elections management, media involvement in the elections process, and voter education as areas needing improvement. For example, regarding elections management, participants noted that reporting systems and communication practices among elections headquarters, governorate offices, and district offices need to be improved to avoid confusion about official policy guidance. In addition, participants suggested that the IECI develop a way to address regional differences in voter education. For example, the development of materials by the IECI in languages such as Assyrian and Turkmen would help avoid inconsistencies and inaccurate translations of official voter education materials.

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