Iraqis back to ballot boxes


Photo Source: Kurdistan 24


By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front


The western media calls the May 12 election in Iraq as a ‘landmark victory of democracy’. 

The election had been splintered with Sunni, Shiite and Kurd vote bank.

The country, for security measures, had sealed its airports and all land borders.

In Iraq, the Sunni vote had been concentrated between The Arab Project, Mutahidoon (United Project) and the Wataniya alliance in the past. The Sunni bloc, consisting of bigger and smaller parties, do not have the numbers, as they used to have in the past.

There was also the Nasr alliance bidding for power yet again, under the leadership of Haidar al Abadi. Hadi Al Amiri’s al-Fatah bloc also ran neck to neck.

These alliances have contested for around 329 federal seats at the parliament. But it was the Sairoon Alliance who won the single largest vote share this time around.

It means that common Iraqis have not given a clear-cut mandate. As a political tradition, the Iraqi Prime Minister was ought to be accepted both by the United States and Iran.

As Sadr has been largely anti-Iranian lately, he has criticised Iraqi politicians, as pawns of Ayatollahs. His win is a shocker for Iran. In their desperation, Iranians mobilised General of Quds forces, Qasim Soleimani to ignite pro-Iranian sentiment in Iraqi constituencies, before the election. But it seems, Soleimani failed in his project.

Sadr’s rise in Iraqi politics is good news for the United States. They want to play a role in the new government and are willing to put an end to a hostile past with him. Quite lately, Sadr was also involved in meetings with the Saudi Crown Prince.

Sadr has not ruled out an alliance with Haidar Al-Abadi, the British educated former prime minister, who has developed good ties with Iran in the past. It means Abadi still has some cards to play, and will likely have a game plan.

All these twists and turns have become paradoxical and ironical at the same time.

As of now, the government formation requires an approval of 165 seats and the negotiations between the parties involved have resumed. However, a large group of politicians (around 176 members) have called for a sabotage of the election and accused the commission of electoral fraud including ‘bribery’ and ‘voter intimidation’.

It seems that the majority of the elects want a re-election in the country, but at the present time, there no constitutional procedure to cancel the election in the country.

According to political analyst, Mustafa Saadoum: “the only solution available for political blocs is to pass a law in parliament cancelling the elections before the constitutional end of their term on June 30. The government can also appeal the parliament's decision to the Federal Supreme Court of Iraq.”

Muqtada al Sadr, a former militia, has largely won the vote from the poor. His nationalist slogan ‘Iraq First’ has somehow resonated with the masses. He might need some more support from smaller, like-minded political parties to form the new government.

In Sadr’s past, his black-clad death squads roamed the streets of Baghdad and cleansed the city quarters of the Sunni population. Fear reigned in Baghdad in everyday life. At that time, his militia was supposedly supplied with weapons from Tehran.

Much of these pogroms were done at the behest of Muqtada al Sadr, the firebrand sermon maker, who made it incumbent upon his followers to attack the United States forces.

But he disbanded his militia in 2008 and diverted his cadre into social activities. He now calls himself as the man of reform and has made his election manifesto through secular intellectuals.

During his time as a militia leader, he rebelled with the government with his muscular approach. Now years later, as he is about to form a government, he will ally with American led coalition, his old foes.

Even at this time, there are militias in Iraq, with their own chain of command, who believe that lawlessness will benefit them to put an end to remaining Islamic State aggression.
At the present time, there are around 7000 American forces in Iraq. Pentagon figures acknowledge up to 5200, which are mainly involved in advisory activities for the Iraqi forces.

In Iraq's recent history, there had been a rise of Islamic State, when abandoned US military equipment, used by the state forces and $500 million in cash from Mosul’s Central Bank disappeared. The Iraqi army soon collapsed in the north, as IS fighters reached the Tigris Valley until years later, we saw a recapture of Mosul by the Iraqi forces.

Coming back to the 2018 election, Sairon Alliance largely consists of working-class Shiites, Sunni businessmen, liberals who have aims to put Iraq out of an economic debacle. Even a group of communists, social democrats and anarchists have come forward to join hands with Sadr.

It seems that after elections in Iraq, nationalism is growing and sectarianism is losing. But at the same time, it seems, the new Iraqi government will be formed based on minimum conditions. It might make a fragile coalition of sorts.

Violence from the Islamic State, chronic unemployment and dire poverty had been the core issues, which the winning alliance tried to confront by making new promises with the Iraqi voters.

According to Al-Monitor: “Sadr also called for abolishing the ethnic and sectarian quota system for building institutions based on qualification and integrity, with a dependence on capable technocrats.
“Much of the media used to refer to Sadr as a ‘firebrand,’ while now the epithet applied to him is "populist."
It was nearly around two years ago, when supporters of Sadr, stormed the green zone and protested against corruption and initiating reforms.

However, Sadr, himself has not run the May 12 election and will likely not become the prime minister, but will play a kingmaker in the new government formation.

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