About 100 New Zealand Defence Force soldiers stationed in Iraq cast their votes last weekend ahead of the general election on 23 September. Photo credit: ABIS Chris Beerens, Australian Defence Force
18 September 2017
An office in Iraq’s sprawling Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad doubled as a polling station last Saturday for around 100 New Zealand Defence Force members voting early for Saturday’s General Election.
The NZDF’s Senior National Officer in Taji said the voting papers arrived in Baghdad earlier in the week and were flown to Taji on Friday.
“The support from Elections New Zealand and our embassy in Baghdad provided our servicemen and women a voting experience that’s not too different from what they would get on Election Day at home,” a New Zealand Army Captain appointed as the Electoral Officer said.
“Elections are a great opportunity to have our voices heard,” another New Zealand Army officer said after casting her vote.
“Most of us have been keeping up with the election issues by reading news applications on our cell phones and there have been a few robust discussions over dinner as well,” she said.
The completed ballots were delivered to Baghdad on Sunday and will be returned to New Zealand this week.
Since May 2015, the NZDF has deployed soldiers to support the Building Partner Capacity mission, an international effort to combat ISIS by helping to train the Iraqi Security Forces. The NZDF soldiers are working alongside 300 Australian Defence Force troops in Iraq’s Camp Taji and have helped train more than 26,000 Iraqi troops so far.
New Zealand’s Electoral Commission said overseas voting started on 6 September and those who live or work overseas can download and print voting papers from the Commission’s website, vote in person at overseas posts or apply for postal voting papers.
There are about 300 Defence Force personnel currently serving overseas. About 230, or 86 per cent, are based in the Middle East and 28 are conducting fisheries patrols in the South Pacific.
Five are working for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission Secretariat in South Korea, including two who serve as monitors at the Demilitarised Zone with North Korea. Four are supporting the UN mission in war-torn South Sudan, while seven are working as UN observers in Israel and Lebanon.