The fifth parliamentary elections and the first early elections of Iraq following the collapse of the Baath regime in Iraq were held on Sunday, October 10, 2021. The elections should have been held on its set date in the next year and simultaneous with the end of the fourth parliament in May 2022. But the reason for the early elections was widespread popular protests in October of 2019, as a result of which Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned from prime ministry and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi replaced him in April 2020, putting on his agenda early elections. This round of elections in Iraq was new in its type due to the increase of electoral districts from 18 to 83 and the voters directly voting for their representatives in the provinces, instead of for the electoral lists or parliamentary fractions. Therefore, in this round of Iraqi elections , 21 political coalitions , 167 parties, 58 of which belonging to the political coalitions, competed for 329 parliamentary seats. 3249 candidates campaigned for the seats, of which 951 were women. Changing the electoral regulations, increasing the electoral districts and increasing the share of the women were the trend of these elections. Therefore, of almost 22 million and one hundred thousand of eligible Iraq voters , 41% participated in the elections, which was 5.3% less than the previous parliamentary elections held in 2018. Since during the corona pandemic all the elections were less participated in ,compared to the pre-corona era, reduction of participation, compared to the pre-corona era, cannot be considered significant. The lowest rates were in AlKarkh, Alrasafe in Baghdad, and Soleimaniah, whose majority of populations are Sunni.
- hallenges of the Fifth Round of Elections:
- Importance of Healthy Electoral Procedures: the said procedure is the only path of development for Iraq and for solving the people’s problems. Therefore, holding healthy, precise and competitive elections is the serious demand of people, political parties and the High Marjaiyyah of Iraq. Thus, in case the very elections become a problem of their own, the capacities of this main pillar of the Iraqi political structure may disappear. Also deploying illegal ballot boxes and biometric devices, on one side, and electronic counting of the cast ballots, on the other side, have made an opportunity for hackers to interfere in the results of the elections, so far so that some already dead people have been declared as winners of the elections.
- Influence of Foreigners: In such a situation, not only have the popular demands that began in October 2019, asking for investigating runaway corruption, poverty alleviation, creation of jobs, and strengthening infrastructures like electricity, water and health services, not been met, but also the path ahead has been mined by the danger of infiltration of foreigners. Also, the vast US and its henchmen’s hidden actions in exploiting the new situation in Iraq is vividly evident.
- Paradoxical Action: The major challenge ahead of the upcoming elections is the change of the electoral law from voting for coalition lists and party fractions to voting for individuals. This change, in fact, has made the status of the most important political pillar of the country ,that is responsible for electing the president, the prime minister and the speaker of the parliament, in a paradoxical status, in a way that the ruling system in Iraq is parliamentary, not presidential, and based on this a party or fraction that has won a majority of the votes takes the step for electing the prime minister, while the present elections have been held contrary to this trend and based on the provincial and individual system.
- Replacement of Procedure Coalition with Majority Fraction: by a summary examination of the previous four rounds of elections in Iraq, the procedure of elections has turned from the fractions of majority to political coalitions and it does not seem improbable that, in this round too, the recent procedure be the solution for this country that faces a hard way for reaching a political coalition.
- Boycotting Elections: it seems that some political fractions and parties’ fear of the short time left for campaigning , within the framework of the new law, and the possibility of low turnout and the elections’ health being compromised ( with a look at the 2018 elections’ experience), have been the cause for their primary opposition to presence in the elections. Parties like the Sadris and the Tribune of Iraq of Ayad Allawi from the Shiite tribes, the Iraqi Communist Party, Saleh Muhammed al-Mutlaq from the Sunni tribes can be named the parties boycotting the elections. The main goal of these parties is mainly delaying the elections, a thing which was not met.
- Security Challenges: Although one of the advantages of the fifth round of elections, despite the US security plots, is holding them in a safe atmosphere, hidden hands have been at work to target the PMU forces to sow discord, between these forces and the security and military forces that are under the government , in the form of participation of the Iraqi prisoners two days earlier, a plot that did not succeed.
- Opportunities Lying Ahead of Iraq:
- Although Iraq is considered a country transitioning to stable and developed political, economic and cultural-social processes,this country , having experienced five experiences of democracy , contrary to its historical experience, is far developed in its governing fundamentals, compared to many other Arab countries. This unique feature is important in the 100th year of government-building of the civil society of this country.
- Change and continuation are two main principles that have been have been accompanied by the Iraqi people’s participation in determining their destiny. The point is the new Iraq, at the threshold of reaching 20 years of experiencing democracy in its governing system, still insists on its council system and sees and pursues the removal of its problems in continuation of this trend. A trend that is the essence of the nation and has so far not only prevented falling into the trap of normalization of ties with the Zionist regime, but also has sealed the US military presence in this country.
- No doubt, the efforts of the enemies of Iraq , since the start of the new era following the fall of the Baath regime, has been based on pitting ethnic and religious groups against each other, and driving the Iraqi domestic situation towards internal conflict and disintegration. Targeting inter-Shiite union is of primary importance and removing the PMU forces is the next priority in their planning for the parliamentary elections. But the Iraqi people’s vote in the parliamentary elections for the Islamist currents showed that they want to preserve their national unity and the Resistance Current and hate the foreigners, especially the US, who want to disrupt the Iraqi people’s security and unity.
- Procedure of Appointing New Administration:
According to the Iraqi High Commissioner for Elections, the party or fraction with a majority of votes , after the formation of the national parliament 15 days after the declaration and official confirmation of the final results of the elections and election of the new president, will be bound to form the new cabinet following the appointment of the new prime minister. Under current circumstances, according to the primary Iraqi elections results, the two fractions of Sauron , headed by Muqtada al-Sadr and the State of Law Coalition headed by Nouri al-Maliki (the Islamic Dawa Party) are the main parties competing to appoint the new prime minister and government. The Sadrist Movement has declared that , this time, wants to appoint a prime minister of its own and showed its resolve to form a wide coalition with the Progress and democratic parties of Kurdistan , with about 140 seats. On the other side, the State of Law Coalition headed by Nouri al-Maliki has started its negotiations with agreeing currents, in a way that it has called for all winning currents, except the Sadrist current, in an emergency meeting at the house of Nouri al-Maliki. Based on this, it is declared that the State of Law Coalition has so far managed to form a new coalition of 85 parliamentary members. However, there are one week left until the results of manual recounting of some electoral districts based on the claims received by the Iraqi High electoral Commission are determined, and the adaption of the recounting must be done to the electronic counting. Therefore, there is the possibility that some seats of the coalitions may change hands and some have the capacity to attract the seats of the independents. Also, some Iraqi political circles do not flatly reject the possibility of the Sadrist current to agree on Mustafa al-Kadhimi as a way to keep and strengthen its big coalition.
With all this said, it has to be said the Islamic Republic of Iran pursues the approach of a stable, independent and developed Iraq since the collapse of the Saddam regime, an approach that will be strengthened by the approach of the 13th administration which is based on interacting with the neighbors in the region as well as on peace coexistence.
Mojtaba Ferdowsi Pour, Senior Expert of Political and International Studies
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)