Iraq elections: More than a surprise, less than a quake
Shafaq News / The relatively surprising results that came out of the Iraqi ballot boxes led to three basic conclusions that will govern the entanglements of the Iraqi political situation, perhaps until the next elections. The imposed facts can no longer be ignored, neither from the political authority nor from the existing forces and parties.
Perhaps the most powerful messages are those related to the 41% turnout, which was the lowest since 2003, despite intensive calls from state figures and active parties on their supporters to vote, as well as the intervention of the Supreme Shiite authority Ali al-Sistani, who appealed to voters to participate because it is the best way to build the state and end corruption.
The irony is that such a low turnout is recorded at a time when Iraq is suffering from crises and problems affecting the majority of sectors, from jobs to healthcare to widespread corruption, the unrestricted weapons, the threat of terrorism, to the severe neglect of state services, electricity, water, and others.
Therefore, it is only normal for citizens to try changing this bitter reality through the ballot box. However, more than 13 million voters remained home, and only about 9 million voters participated in the elections, reflecting many political, social, and partisan painful meanings.
Despite the reality that the country is in dire need of a change, analysts expected a low turnout in the October 10 elections. In fact, promoting otherwise was more wishful thinking than a reflection of the indifference and frustration felt by millions of Iraqis. This frustration resonated clearly with the Iraqi High Electoral Commission announcement of the elections results and turnout in the various governorates.
According to many observers, the second major conclusion that can be monitored is that the elections, which were called "early" and in response to the demands of millions of Iraqis, did not spawn the radical change the October protesters aspired. However, perhaps quite the contrary, contributed to the assertion that traditional political forces, if you will, are still able to dominate the political and social landscape, even if their weights, parliamentary seats, and quotas change in the political structure.
This issue needs to be scrutinized to understand the causes and meanings of what happened and its implications for future work in Iraq. Yet, many agree that the violence used against demonstrators and assassinations of activists have created an environment of lack of hope for democratic change, as well as fear and intimidation, which must be taken into account in the upcoming electoral process to mobilize voters, especially the youth, to get them out of despair.
Obviously, Mustafa al-Kadhimi's government, in conjunction with various political forces, including those representing the October protests movement, hoped by calling for early elections to promote the principles of democratic action that will contribute to internal transformations that ultimately reflect the aspirations of the masses and ease the accumulating tension. However, If these possibilities are no longer in hand, Iraq will hit an impasse and raise questions about whether the young democratic process is actaully functioning.
However, the relatively disappointing results for the protest movement's supporters, and their achievement of some presence here and there, do not mean that "traditional partisan forces" can enjoy their gains, at least in the years between October and the date of the next parliamentary elections supposedly in 2025. Perhaps quite the opposite, as the street has proved in one way or another, whether through the large protest boycott rate or through the success of some figures who consider themselves representative of the demonstrators' movement, that it may be like a snowball ready to grow up and roll in the future.
Observers, therefore, stress that these two outcomes should sound the alarm for traditional forces to deal with them wisely, whether by taking the initiative to respond to the aspirations of the "boycott segment", or to embrace - not besiege - the visions of the figures emerging from the movement in the new parliament, and to integrate them into the core of comprehensive political action.
The third main conclusion, which is no less important, is that the elements of electoral bargaining have changed from 2018 when the Alliance Towards Reform won 54 seats, the al-Fatah Alliance 47 seats, and the Victory Alliance 42 seats, and the State of Law Coalition won 26 seats, which means that selecting a new president to take over the government, or renewing current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's mandate, will be subjected to the rules of the new game.
For the Kurdistan Democratic Party (K.D.P.), it can be said that it has strengthened its role as a key player on the Iraqi scene and in contributing to the drawing of potential alliances and balances in Baghdad, where it now has 32 seats in parliament, a remarkable rise compared to the 2018 elections when it collected 25 seats.
It is known that the parliamentary and political blocs have already begun their contacts to explore the prospects for the future, and the K.D.P. will serve as a cornerstone with which it is necessary to coordinate and consult for the possible formulations of the government, the presidency of the republic, as well as the presidency of parliament. Hoshyar Zebari, a leader in the K.D.P., announced that the party has begun consultations with most of the winning political forces, "Soon we will form our delegation to go to Baghdad and discuss the naming of the three presidencies and the formation of the new federal government. On the other hand, we will discuss with the Kurdish parties as well because we certainly want to work as a team."
Zebari's statement is a positive sign for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.), which did not achieve the results it had hoped for from the elections, as after winning 18 seats in the last elections, this time only managed to collect 17 seats despite its alliance with the Gorran Movement, which in turn was unable to win any seats, and had to apologize to its voters and supporters.
Now, with the poor results achieved by Hadi al-Amiri's al-Fatah Alliance, and the Sadrists' significant boost to their parliamentary quota (73 seats), coupled with Nouri al-Maliki's remarkable progress, there is no doubt that Muqtada al-Sadr will lead the political scene at the current stage, and will serve as a "kingmaker", as described by the Washington Post on the eve of the elections.
In other words, al-Sadr, in alliance with other forces, will be able to determine the fate of the new government's leadership, unless surprises and political games lead to a different path. The leaks have already confirmed an understanding between the Sadrists, K.D.P., and the Takadum Alliance led by parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halboosi, who came second with 41 seats, to form the new government.
It was remarkable that al-Sadr tweeted in conjunction with unofficial reports about the presence of Commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Ismail Qaani in Baghdad as the preliminary results of the elections emerged, "The commission's decisions should not be interfered with by some regional and international countries as the elections are an internal matter."
Al-Sadr's tweet could be an urgent attempt to block Qaani if he feels he is trying to marginalize his role, and an assurance from the Sadrist leader that he is committed to wanting to have the upper hand in choosing the next prime minister, especially after the Al-Fatah Alliance was stricken by winning only 14 seats.
It is possible to understand from al-Sadr's tweet, and implicitly from The Visit of Qaani, that what will happen in the following days, is a clash between the Shiite forces on quotas and political priorities, embodied in the Sadrists' attempt to exclude their opponents in al-Fatah Alliance and the State of Law Coalition, especially since relations are not at their best between al-Sadr and both al-Amiri and al-Maliki.
Muqtada al-Sadr reflected these possibilities with his announcement at a press conference that he opposes the employment of arms outside the state's authority, even if the users claim it to be the weapon of resistance. A statement that appears to be an early attack on the al-Hashd al-Shaabi factions (Popular Mobilization Forces-P.M.F.) involved in the al-Fatah Alliance specifically.
Observers drew attention to the positions of al-Fatah Alliance's leader Hadi al-Amiri, who questioned the election results, and the statements of Hezbollah's security chief Abu Ali al-Askari, who called on the "resistance factions" to prepare for what he called the biggest fraud against the Iraqi people in recent history.