Upcoming Iraq Elections: Voters and Likely Winners

To understand the likely and unlikely results of the snap parliamentary elections in Iraq, scheduled for October, we need to understand both who is running and who is voting. Although these early elections were a response to the requests of the October 2019 protest movement, they are likely to be boycotted by the same activists who demanded them due to an inhospitable pre-election environment. The impact of boycotts will be tempered by the formal and informal coalitions formed between established political parties, but will likely lead to results. similar to previous elections in 2018.

Among the party leaders established in Iraq, only former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Ammar al-Hakim formally formed a coalition, the power of the National Coalition of the State. Al-Hakim, who is both a cleric and a politician, once headed the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq before separating from it to establish the National Wisdom Movement (al-Hikma), which claims to be a “civic” rather than an Islamist party.

Informal coalitions, which should form post-hoc, are Between The movement of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) of Massoud Barzani and Between The Fateh coalition of Hadi al-Ameri and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), co-led by Lahur and Bafel Talabani. While the former may present itself as the anti-Iran coalition, al-Sadr and the Barzanis have strong ties to Iran. Al-Sadr is a populist cleric with cult-like worship and a reputation for being politically inconsistent. During the Iraqi elections of 2018, his Saairan alliance Won the highest number of seats, largely due to low voter turnout due to the boycott movement. Mohammed al-Halbousi, the current speaker of parliament, should align himself with them. Such a coalition would be disastrous for the already declining freedom of expression in Iraq, as the Sadrists and the KDP are known for restrict freedoms.

For these established parties and renowned politicians, the new and smaller electoral districts – a demand from the 2019 protests – means they are less inclined to field many candidates, but rather to focus on districts in which they can win. This resulted in a steep fall the number of registered candidates rose from 7,178 candidates in 2018 to 3,532 parties in 2021. The ability to win at the provincial level, but not at the district level, will deter some party leaders from running for office. While this is a positive development, it has repercussions, including fear among activists that they are easier to target when running in smaller communities.

Indeed, Iraq’s current security environment presents one of the greatest obstacles to political participation. Since the end of the protest movement in October 2019, violence against activists has gone from indiscriminate assassinations to targeted assassinations. One of the main unmet demands of the protest movement has been justice for the protesters and activists killed. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s failure to deliver justice sparked nationwide protests under the slogan of “Who killed me? ”The death of Kerbala-based activist Ihab al-Wazni has prompted many new Iraqi protest political parties to declare a boycott of the elections. Mexican situation, where candidates are killed before elections with impunity.

The Iraqi Communist Party (PCI) joined the ranks of the boycotters, despite running alongside the Sadrists in the 2018 elections. In an article, the ICP leader said Explain that the elections are boycotted to deprive the government of its legitimacy. He writes that the planned elections do not reflect the demands of the protesters, in particular the required legal changes, nor the appropriate security environment, nor the independence of the electoral commission. Many protesting parties agreed with his argument, although some are still debating the merits of the boycott and considering running for office.

Party protests should be distinguished from a public boycott. Of course, protest parties and elite activists have a role to play in shaping public discourse, but they are not the only ones shaping public opinion. A key player is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who can issue an election statement that can encourage people to vote (as in 2005) or can give them the choice and thus create a space for boycott (as in 2018). It will take extreme public unrest for al-Sistani to issue such a statement and he will do so while balancing his own credibility with his dedication to protect existing legal and constitutional mechanisms. In addition to al-Sistani, the United Nations unexpectedly agreed at the request of the Iraqi government for additional electoral assistance by providing monitoring on election day. They have expressed their intention to communicate their role to the Iraqi public, which is crucial as many activists have expressed a demand for international monitoring to ensure electoral integrity.

In a scenario where both the public and the protest parties boycott, the likely result is a split between the two main Shiite parties – the Sadrists and Fatah – and their respective Kurdish party allies. This will lead to familiar negotiations over a compromise candidate for prime minister, which may result in either a weak independent (like Adil Abd al-Mahdi or Mustafa al-Kadhimi) or a politically supported supporter seen as too involved in the government. political order. The presidency, as is often the case, will likely fall to the PUK, whose co-president recently announced his Support for the re-election of President Barham Salih, arguably the candidate with the most political weight in Baghdad. Despite the expected electoral success of al-Halbousi in an Anbar district, no speaker of parliament has served more than one term and his predecessor, Salim al-Jibouri, has not even been able to retain his seat in the parliament thereafter.

If there is no boycott, the shares of the pie for these established parties will be smaller and the negotiations for the post of prime minister may take longer. The results, unfortunately, will probably not be different for the three high offices. Where things change will be in parliament, where the new parties may be able to negotiate more. But the best we can hope for in such a scenario is gradual change, over the years, through parliament.

Until then, there is still the possibility of protests in Iraq. As long as old underlying grievances (poor service, unemployment, corruption) and new grievances (no justice for the killed and a decline in free speech) exist, any game can spark protests.

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