Iraq and the future parliamentary elections

Posted in Iraq | 10-Feb-10 | Author: Corneliu Pivariu

Women distribute calendars with a picture of Hameed Majeed Mousa, the head of Iraq's Communist Party, for the start of Friday's election campaign in a street in Kerbala.

The parliamentary elections from Iraq scheduled to be held on 7 March 2010 are generally considered to be significantly important since they can determine the course of the nation either towards a stable and consolidating democracy or towards ethnic conflicts and precarious security conditions.

The elections have been postponed (the initial date of the elections was 21 January) after the parliamentary disputes regarding the new electoral law and the veto expressed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi (Sunni) on the seats reserved to refugees (mostly Sunni). The Kurdish are also dissatisfied with their number of seats because it does not correspond to the situation in the field. Therefore, a compromise was needed. Even though the number of parliamentarians increased from 275 to 325, as compared with the first elections from 2005, there are still numerous conflicts. Both the Iraqi and American officials - whose withdrawal from Iraq is connected to the course to normality and stability of the social and political life - are highly concerned about these elections.

The situation that we have briefly presented above was complicated by the decision made on 7 January by the electoral committee, which bans 511 candidates belonging to 14 political parties from participating in the elections (216 are former members of the Iraqi Baas Party, 182 are former members of the Iraqi intelligence services and of the paramilitary group Fedayeen Saddam and 105 are former officers and generals of the old Iraqi army). We remind the fact that in 2005, the Sunni community boycotted the elections and this allowed the Kurdish to get more seats. This time, the Sunni's decision to be more present bumped against the decision mentioned above. According to certain sources, this decision was made under the Iranian influence which wants to maintain instability and tensions in Iraq in order to better negotiate with the United States in the long debated issue of the Iranian nuclear program. In fact, the explosions of three suicidal vehicles on 25 January showed the precarious security conditions from Baghdad. The explosions happened at an interval of 10 minutes, in the vicinity of four hotels from the city and resulted in important material damages and nearly 40 victims. Another bomb exploded on 26 January and killed 38 people.

The situation has been slightly rectified in a short while because on 25 January the electoral committee cleared its interdiction for 9 political parties and 55 candidates. One of these fortunate candidates was Salih Mohamed Omar (former member of the Baas party until 1977 when he resigned), considered to be one of the most important Sunni political figures, president of the Iraqi Front for National Dialog (the second Sunni party in size and the fifth political structure in the present parliament). Together with the former laic Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (Shiite) and the present Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Mutlak also works for a strategic alliance known under the name of al-Iraqia, planned to go beyond the barriers of the sect.

The concern of the United States for a peaceful development and a political solution of the present situation is proven by the visit of Vice President Joe Biden in Baghdad. Biden met numerous Iraqi politicians, including Prime-Minister Maliki and President Talabani. During the meeting with the Iraqi President, held on 23 January, Biden emphasized the importance of the elections "people often say that the real test of democracy is not the first round of elections, but the second." He also expressed his confidence that the Iraqis would find a just solution for the elections and denied (as it was expected) that he would have suggested a solution even though according to certain Iraqi sources, Joe Biden did not have much confidence in the activity of the committee and said that the isolation of politicians should happen after the elections and not before them.

At the same time, we notice that the Kurdish have also been concerned about the elections. The President of the Regional Government from Kurdistan - Massoud Barzani visited Washington on 26 January where he met President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Careful about the political confrontation between the Sunni and the Shiites as well as about the wider confrontation USA-Iran, the Kurdish want long-term security guarantees, having in view that the American forces will soon withdraw from Iraq. However, according to unconfirmed sources, approximately 21,000 American soldiers will be redeployed in the north of Iraq, mainly in Kirkuk and Mossul at the beginning of February.

We will analyze the developments from Iraq and the possible results of the elections in one of our future editions.