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A state representative from Missouri has been in Iraq where she helped oversee Sunday’s elections. KSMU’s Missy Shelton has this report.
Photo of Representative Maria Chappelle-Nadal is provided to KSMU courtesy of Tim Bommel and the House Communications Office.
Democratic State Representative Maria Chappelle-Nadal has been in the Middle East since last week as part of a delegation of women legislators from the US. She first made a stop in Jordan the voting process for Iraqi refugees living in that country. Then, she and the rest of the group helped monitor the March 7th elections in Iraq. In a phone interview from Iraq, Chappelle-Nadal discussed her role in Sunday’s elections.
Chappelle-Nadal says, “My mission was to look at whether people were intimidated, whether or not information was readily available, to look at if each voter who came in had the proper identification, to look at the functionality of the process. The poll site that I went to was very interesting because it had all the VIPs, all the people who are currently elected and their family members. They all went to the poll site where I was.”
The National Foundation for Women Legislators organized this delegation of U.S. elected officials. Of particular interest to the group was an election mandate requiring women to comprise 25 percent of the Iraqi Parliament. Chappelle-Nadal says she spent about 40 minutes at a polling site in the international zone in Baghdad. She was allowed to ask whether voters had cast their ballot for any women candidates.
Chappelle-Nadal says, “We were a little bit controversial because we asked women voters what their opinions were, what their experiences were. Many of the women we interviewed did not vote for other women. It could’ve been because of the poll site where I was. It could be because the majority of the people in the Iraqi national parliament are men.”
Besides talking to voters, Chappelle-Nadal says she got to interview some of the candidates themselves.
She says, “There were interviews we had with female candidates. These are women who weren’t able to vote who are now able to run for office and that’s awesome. What the NGOs are doing now is trying to provide women the tools that are necessary so they can move up in their party and become leaders.”
Chappelle-Nadal says that as an American woman, she felt she was well received in Iraq. There was violence in Baghdad Sunday with the elections, though Chappelle-Nadal did not witness any of the violence herself. Monday night, she and other members of the US delegation had dinner with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. She’ll be back in Missouri Wednesday.