The Iraqi general Parliamentary Elections and the Forthcoming Parliamentary Election in the KRG region

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Jun 15, 2018 No Comments ›› americanmesopotamianorganization

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Elections are not an easy process, especially in conflict areas such as Iraq: where the parliamentary elections are always problematic. They are never smooth and can easily drag the country into sectarian wars.

For example, the 2015 elections were boycotted by the Sunni Arabs and they were followed by a series of terrorist attacks. The 2010 elections on the other hand were shrouded with per-election controversies: 499 candidates were banned by the Independent High Electoral Commission and due to fraud allegations, it took months for a new government to be formed and for the parliament to re-open. Furthermore, these elections were coupled with fierce terrorism, especially against the Assyrians of Mosul.And from the start of the election campaign- to election day and until the release of the final results – more than 400 civilian deaths, linked to the elections, were recorded.As for the 2014 elections, they were preceded with major protests leading to the prime minister’s resignation and laying the path for a “mini” civil war and for ISIS to control a large swathe of the country.

Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi

Thus the 2018 elections too have not been any different. The record low turnout of 44.5% is followed by problems based on fraud allegations. Initially, the possibility of canceling the expatriate votes and the recount of the 10% of the votes in certain governorates was announced. On June 6th, the Iraqi Parliament ordered the manual recount of the total votes;however, on Sunday the 10th, only days after the parliament had announced the manual recount of the votes, a storage site of the Iraqi Independent Electoral High Commission, housing more than half of the ballot boxes, was purposely set ablaze. The prime minister, Haider Al-Abadi has called this a plot and in his weekly speech declared it an intentional act of sabotage aiming to prevent the manual sorting of the votes or phantom hands trying to drag the country yet into another conflict.

Considering all this, there is a growing number of political voices calling for the rerun of the whole elections, although the possibility of this happening seems highly unlikely.

Low Turnout

Many analysts perceive the low turnout of 44.5% – juxtaposed with the 2005’s 79.6%, 2010’s 60.7% and 2014’s 60.5%– as a clear sign of Iraqi people’s lack of trust in the political process and a total rebuke of their ‘self-serving and corrupted’ politicians. This bitter sentiment of the Iraqi public is indeed mirrored by an equally low turnout of Assyrian voters – both in the diaspora and Iraq, more so in the diaspora.

The Christian Quota

The general Assyrian public has been dissatisfied, to say the least, with the performance of their political parties in Iraq for quite some time now, especially with their representation in the parliament since 2003. This slowly grew to a resentment of anything political as the people grew more and more apolitical. This resentment manifested itself as an observable decline in the number of voters, for example: the Al-Rafidain Coalition (Assyrian Democratic Movement’s – ADM- electoral slate) had won three seats in 2010 which was reduced to only two seats in 2014 and in May 2018 the Al-Rafidain slate whose coalition now consisted of Assyrian Patriotic Party (APP) along with the ADM struggled to secure a single parliamentary seat.

The political parties’ claim: this should not be construed a decline in their popularity but rather an appropriation of our people’s political free will, through the founding of political parties and slates that are aligned to Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and in the recent may elections through the Fatih Coalition too.

Indeed, there is a kernel of truth to this claim: it is not a hidden truth that the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council was founded by the KDP to run in the elections within the Christian quota. It is also bluntly obvious that the Shiite Fatih Coalition supported the slate of the Babylonians’ Movement; however, this cannot explain the shocking low turnout of the Assyrian voters, especially in the recent Iraqi General Parliamentary Elections which took place on May 12th. This is the people protesting their politicians, it is a clear message from the general Assyrian populace that has lost faith in its political parties and their policies.

It would take some serious damage control from our political parties to put an end to this gradual decline of their popularity. They would also need to listen to the people and reassess their policies accordingly to regain their trust, especially now that the KRG’s parliamentary elections have been announced to take place in September 2018.

Calls for a Unified Stance

The setback of the Assyrian political parties in the Iraqi general parliamentary elections and the overt highjacking of four out of the five Christian Quota seats has created a certain uneasiness among Assyrian political parties. This prompted Abnaa Al-Nahrain party, in an unprecedented open letter,to invite the Assyrian Democratic Movement, its members and supporters back to the negotiation table to form a united front to face the challenges following the disaster of the May elections. However, this open letter was met with a rather polemical articleby Mr. Ninos Petyou, the former general secretary of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and the brother-in-law to Mr. Younadam Kanna who is the movement’s current general secretary.

Mr. Petyou is generally observed as ADM’s main ideologue; thus, his article was analyzed as an unofficial reply from the ADM. Many expected the movement’s official replyto resonate the same negative tone of Mr. Petyou’s article; however, ADM’s reply – although not so positive – contradicted Mr. Petyou’s objurgating article. They not only did not totally dismiss Abnaa Al-Nahrain’s call to form a united front, but their reply consisted of a rather subtle reproach of Mr. Petyou’s preemptive article.

This has caused some to question Mr. Petyou’s popularity within the movement and others to construe it as a growing manifestation of the longstanding disagreements between Mr. Petyou and Mr. Kanna and the two’s struggle for power within the movement’s leadership and its rank and file.

KRG Parliamentary Elections and the Christian Quota

Whilst the results of the Iraqi general parliamentary elections are clouded with uncertainties, the KRG general parliamentary elections have now been scheduled to take place on September 30th, 2018.

According to Shafaq News,Dr. Srood Maqdasy, an Assyrian MP in the KRG parliament and one of the leaders of the Abnaa Al-Nahrain Party stated the following: “Assyrian MPs have tabled a motion in the KRG parliament to change the Christian Quota System; asking for special ballot boxes to be allocated for the Christians in which the voting is solely restricted to their voters”.

The general feeling among the Assyrian public is: changing of the quota system is imperative otherwise we will witness yet another disaster in September.

The main Kurdish factions have already created aligned slates to run in these elections with the Christian quota: the KDP has its usual two slates, Shlama and the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, the PUK has created its own Suraya slate; and the Movement for Change (Gorran) and the Coalition for Democracy and Justice too have entered the race to compete with their counterparts for the five seats, supposedly allocated for the Assyrians, by creating their own puppet: the Christian Democratic slate and the Christian Coalition for the Right of Equality respectively.

This has left the main Assyrian political parties with a great dilemma. They find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place: either they set their differences aside and enter the elections as one unified slate, if they are serious about competing with the puppet slates, or they insist on running separately: the Abnaa Al-Nahrain slate and the Entity of the Rafidain Slate respectively (the latter could consist of a coalition between ADM and APP).

To achieve a unified slate between ADM, Abnaa Al-Nahrain and the APP, it is claimed: they have already started to seriously discuss this option and a meeting between them is scheduled to take place soon for this exact purpose.

Another option which is not entirely off the table is for these three political parties to boycott the September elections altogether.

American Mesopotamian Organization’s Position

Considering the outcome of the May elections and the fact that the main Kurdish political parties are entering the September elections with four puppet slates to compete for the five seats of the Christian quota, we believe we have no option but to demand for special ballot boxes specifically allocated for the Assyrian voters. If the seats are for the Assyrians,then only Assyrians should be allowed to cast the votes. If this is not achieved, we call for a total boycott of the whole election.

We are thus appealing to UNAMI and other international bodies to take immediate action to rectify this injustice by changing the quota system otherwise we hold them responsible for the anticipated negative outcomes. Our people have endured decades of endless pains and perils in Iraq and they can’t bear yet another such setback. We fear this will cause yet another mass migration of our people. Our political parties should rise to the occasion and take a united stance to change the current quota systems whose negative impacts are having serious effects on our future in Iraq: they must boycott the elections if they fail to change the current status quo, maybe this will help them to slowly regain their people’s trust.



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