DUBAI: As the countdown begins for the Iraqi parliamentary elections on October 10, some political parties hope that the voting age population will forget their story of broken promises and succumb to their flattery. It is up to the 25 million voters registered on Iraq’s electoral roll to choose their representatives wisely if they want to see different results this time around.
This message is hammered out by Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the Iraqi Prime Minister, via tweets and public statements, along with calls for voters to come in large numbers on election day. “Our dear Iraqi people. For your future and that of your children, I urge you to get your voter cards, ”he said in a tweet on Sunday.
“Your votes are a responsibility that should not be wasted. Those who want reforms and changes should aim for a high turnout. Your votes are the future of Iraq.
In a September 24 tweet, Al-Kadhimi called on Iraqis to vote wisely so that the costly mistakes of the past are not repeated. “Don’t trust false promises and don’t listen to threats and intimidation,” he said. “Defeat them with your votes, in free and fair elections. Together, we are moving towards a future the Iraqis deserve. “
Few Iraqis know better than Al-Kadhimi how slim the chances of major change happening through the ballot box alone. Following the reintroduction of parliamentary elections in 2005, Iraqis voted not for individual candidates, but for favoritism-friendly lists – or tickets – vying for seats in each of the 18 provinces.
With the adoption last year of a new electoral law that divides the country into constituencies, independent candidates now have the opportunity to compete for the 329 parliamentary seats. But the electoral system has engendered deep disillusionment with a political class that has proven unable or unwilling to provide security and good governance, repair the economy, and heal sectarian and religious divisions.
“Although Iraqi political elites have shown little will for change, some recognize that opening up the political field to reform may be the only way to prevent another mass explosion, the consequences of which could be far more damaging,” Lahib Higel, senior Iraq analyst for the Crisis Group, said on Twitter.
She added: “In order to restore public confidence in the short term, the government must create a secure environment for the elections, where new political actors can compete without fear of losing their lives. “
Prior to Al-Kadhimi, four prime ministers had been in Baghdad since 2005, but none of them were able to move forward to end corruption, raise living standards, create jobs and opportunities for people. youth or provide security.
Of course, not all failures are due to individual incompetence.
Iraq’s sectarian power-sharing system has stood in the way of political reforms demanded by protesters who took to the streets of Baghdad in October 2019. Although the assassinations and the pandemic have put a damper on the protests, parties across the spectrum ethno-sectarian continued to be seen as only interested in maintaining their positions of power.
Since the start of 2020, COVID-19 has infected more than 2 million Iraqis, killing more than 22,000, according to Worldometer data. The rapid spread of the disease has strained Iraq’s dilapidated health system.
The fall in oil prices in 2020 caused by the pandemic has wreaked havoc on Iraq’s budget, which remains heavily dependent on crude exports. On top of everything, the leadership faced challenges in the form of paramilitary groups, remnants of Daesh, and violations of Iraq’s territorial integrity by neighboring states.
Clearly, the task of restoring hope remains as daunting as ever, but as long as Al-Kadhimi is in charge, the Iraqis at least have reason not to despair. Under his watch, a key demand from anti-government protesters who took to the streets in 2019 – that the government advance elections originally scheduled for May 2022 – has been met.
In foreign policy, one of the biggest successes was the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership on August 28. High-level delegations from France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in addition to the Secretaries General of the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
That the Iraqi Prime Minister has managed to bring together so many heads of government and organizations under one roof, even if only for one day, has undoubtedly been a major achievement. The assurance of support from the international community that Al-Kadhimi clearly enjoys will likely remain his strength in the future.
Being seen as a rare, secure pair of hands means that Iraq’s friends, aware of the competing interests that Al-Kadhimi must juggle, are willing to give it a little slack, especially in the way it deals with issues. security and administrative issues posed by the country’s unruly Shiite militias.
If Al-Kadhimi returns as prime minister after the October election, analysts believe the government should stick to the current non-sectarian tactic.
“His performance so far has proven he can do it. Among the political figures who have tried it so far, Al-Kadhimi has shown the most dexterity, ”Yasar Yakis, Turkey’s former foreign minister, wrote in an op-ed this week for Arab News.
For his part, Al-Kadhimi, aware of the many political constraints of his profession, reminds his compatriots that they too must do their part if they want a better future.
“Protecting our nation and maintaining our integrity cannot be achieved by turning a blind eye to mistakes,” he said via Twitter on Tuesday. “The Iraqi people have defended the values of justice, tolerance and sacrifice throughout history. They deserve a life of dignity in the democracy they have chosen.
It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms which have been tried from time to time. This old adage is reminiscent of the slight comparative advantage the Iraqis have despite all the hardships they face.