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 a New Zealand general election this week.
CAPTION: New Zealand Army soldiers line up to vote in the 2017 New Zealand general election at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. Photo by Able Seaman Chris Beerens, ADF.
NZDF’s senior national officer in Taji said support from Elections New Zealand and the New Zealand Embassy in Baghdad provided Kiwi servicemen and women a voting experience that’s not too different from what they would get on election day at home.
“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.”
Completed ballots were returned 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 at Camp Taji and have helped train more than 26,000 Iraqi troops so far.
About 200 other NZDF personnel are currently serving in other missions around the world – about 130 in other parts of the Middle East; 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; seven are working as UN observers in Israel and Lebanon; and, four are supporting the UN mission in South Sudan.