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About 3,249 people, less than a third of them women, aspire to occupy one of the 329 parliamentary seats

A woman shows her inked finger.
A woman shows her inked finger.EFE
  • Wide angle Elections in Iraq in the shadow of Afghanistan’s withdrawal

Fireworks in central Baghdad at the end of the day tried to give these parliamentary elections the pomp and excitement that polling stations lacked throughout the day. Without official data beyond the 19% turnout registered at noon, most observers predicted that this Sunday’s elections would be the elections with the fewest votes since the establishment of the government supervised by the United States. Calls for a boycott from disgruntled youth may have had their effect.

About 3,249 people, less than a third of them women, aspire to occupy one of the 329 parliamentary seats. It was the fifth elections since the fall of Sadam Housein in 2003, and were held in advance to fulfill the promise that the prime minister Mustafa Kadimi took to the streets a year ago, in the midst of a wave of protests against the political class. But the streets did not respond. Even without manifesting, many Iraqis are disenchanted by the lack of reforms.

This October marks the two-year anniversary of the outbreak of discontent with the lack of public services, corruption and foreign interference, which united Iraqis from across the political spectrum on the streets of the center and south of the country. The harsh repression, led by the Chies militias, left more than 600 dead. The movement that was born from that horror, called precisely Tishreen (October in Arabic) was divided between the supporters of the boycott and a series of marginal reformist candidates.

“Iraqi leaders cannot convince the people to support them because there is mistrust and distance between them, as in Afghanistan,” he explains, as a comparative example. Ahmad Shah Mohibi, analyst and promoter of the NGO Rise to Peace. Although 60% of the Iraqi population is under the age of 25, according to witnesses, in the electoral schools, heavily guarded and with little influx, there were mostly adults and the elderly voting. Fed up with politicians hung in the air.

Such reactions are the product of the stagnation of some already sclectic institutions as a result of the so-called ‘Muhasasa Ta’ifia’, the system of distribution of powers, based on ethnic quotas, that the US promoted almost two decades ago. Its result, in Iraq, has been the division of the State and its distribution between parties, promoting the emergence of clientelistic networks and parasiteyes, more focused on benefiting from the privileges obtained by quota than on being accountable to the population.

Such actions, however, threaten to compromise the legitimacy of Iraqi institutions at a time of political weakness, with the threat of the Islamic State still persistent and the country still a battleground for foreign powers. Perhaps the success of Kadhimi, a consensus leader, bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table, will serve to pacify the situation and, on the way, ensure continuity.

Of all the political forces that had proposed candidacies, the best positioned to grow in the sculpted ballot boxes was that of the Chi cleric Muqtada Sadr. Paradoxes of fate, who once led his own against the United States, in a campaign of virulent sectarian attacks, now emerges as a figure implicitly endorsed by Washington, turned into a reference of a nationalism that refuses to marry even with co-religionist Iran.

Benefiting from the Iraqi system, entrenched in a government jobs concession body, the Sadrists have created a powerful structure capable of granting perks to its supporters, while appealing to the ordinary worker and even crying out against corruption. Their religious primacy, in a country with a majority Chi, assures them a base of support that is probably sufficient for their judgment to be decisive in the struggle to place a prime minister of their choice.

Election day passed mostly without incident, although the violence reached the polls. At a Diyala polling station, armed men broke in and opened fire on those present, wounding two guards and fleeing. The security forces blamed the attack on the Islamic State. Another policeman was wounded at a Kirkuk polling station in a similar assault. After the polls closed, at six in the afternoon, the Electoral Commission announced that the results would be known this Monday.

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