Why is Iraq Postponing its Coming Elections?

Published January 17th, 2021 - 10:29 GMT
An Iraqi woman voter her ink-stained index finger before a national flag after having cast her vote in the first parliamentary election in Baghdad, May 12, 2018. (AFP)
An Iraqi woman voter her ink-stained index finger before a national flag after having cast her vote in the first parliamentary election in Baghdad, May 12, 2018. (AFP)
Highlights
Next June elctions are likely to be postponed to October.

Iraq is edging close to postponing the general elections that were scheduled to take place next June in light of the inability of the competent authority to secure the requirements for polling at the appointed date.

Informed sources suggest that a consensus is likely to be reached  on the postponement decision provided that the new date is next October.

Analysts say that this postponement provides Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi with the opportunity to build alliances that enable him to remain on the political forefront considering the decline of the parties representing political Islam.

On Thursday, Kadhimi and the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, and the Head of the Judicial Authority Faiq Zaidan held a meeting in Baghdad.

During the meeting, the chairperson and members of the board of commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, were invited to a discussion of the upcoming early elections.

The electoral commission presented “the schedule of technical operations and timeline for conducting early elections.”

It also presented an outline of its “commitment to conducting transparent and fair elections, intensifying its efforts to complete the biometric registration of all voters and coordinating efforts aimed at ensuring effective international monitoring of the vote.”

It stated that it “will give sufficient time for candidates, political alliances, new political forces and youth to complete the legal registration procedures and submit candidate lists.”

The meeting recommended providing full support to the Independent High Electoral Commission to accomplish its tasks and complete the constitutional and legal requirements for holding early elections, in particular the need for parliament to pass The Federal Court Act and implement article 64 of the constitution related to the disbanding of the house of representatives in preparation for early elections.

The quorum of the federal court – which is the only body entitled to validating the election results and hearing appeals about these results – remains incomplete, due to the death of one of its members and the retirement of another.

Without a federal court, the results of any general vote in Iraq will not be approved. Therefore, a priority task for the current parliament is to find a way out of the federal court problem, which requires a general political consensus.

The official statement describing the proceedings of Thursday’s meeting did not mention the first date set by the government for holding early elections, which is June 6, 2021. This was considered a clear indication of the possibility of postponement of the polling date.

Political sources familiar with the details of this meeting said that the commission informed the four presidents that it would not be able to hold elections in June, and that it needed at least three more months, after the June date, to secure voting requirements.

The commission wants to complete updating the voters’ register  in order to be able to count the number of Iraqis who are allowed to participate in the general polling, something it is still working on.

The sources added that the election commission’s estimate matches that of the United Nations Mission in Iraq, which will play a pivotal role backing the election process and directly supervising it.

Alia Nassif,  a member of the State of Law coalition, said that the new election date may be announced after a meeting held by the prime minister with a number of stakeholders  in Baghdad.

Nassif added that Kadhimi may want to change the date of the elections, which he had pledged to hold June of this year, but she did not mention the new date.

Sources following the electoral process  say that most of the stakeholders believe that holding the polls next October will be appropriate for everyone, in terms of giving the commission the needed time to complete its preparations first, and secondly because holding the elections in a very hot month such as June may adversely affect the tournout.

The Kadhimi government wants to avoid a low voter turnout, which some predict in a repeat of what happened during the last elections held in 2018, when the rate of participation did not exceed 20%, according to unofficial estimates.

The competing political parties in Iraq view the upcoming elections as a test of the popular mood after the largest wave of demonstrations in the country’s history, which began in October 2019 and continued until the middle of the following year.

Observers say that postponing the election date will give the prime minister and president enough time to build alliances that will maintain their prominent role on the political scene, especially for Kadhimi, who could benefit from the public anger at the parties participating in Parliament, which bear responsibility for the failure of the post-2003 governments.

Observers add that the upcoming elections in Iraq will be held under the shadow of the October demonstrations, as dozens of new and old parties are preparing to participate amid a decline in the popularity of political Islam, and a general popular leaning towards civil and secular movements.

 

On Friday, Iraqi activists announced the formation of a new political bloc to run in early parliamentary elections.

The announcement came at a press conference held by activists in the city of Samawah, the capital of Muthanna Governorate, in the south of the country.

Alaa al-Rikabi, a prominent activist in the Dhi Qar protests, said during the news conference that he would lead the new bloc, which bears the name “Imtidad Movement.”

He added that the movement “will serve as the voice of popular protests and intends to run in the upcoming early parliamentary elections” . The bloc, he added, “will face the current corrupt system in the country … and will seek to obtain the parliamentary majority, otherwise it will join the opposition in the next parliament.”

In this atmosphere, observers say that most political Islam parties may run in the upcoming elections as much as possible under the banner of parties with civil appearances  in order to preserve their chances of winning.

So far, the number of parties licensed to run in the elections has exceeded the four-hundred barrier. In the event the elections are postponed, the number of parties that will be granted permission to participate will inevitably increase.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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