After Excluding Popular Mobilization Forces from Special Vote, Forgery and Civil War threaten Iraqi Elections

At the time the Shiite leaders began mobilizing people days before the Iraqi elections and dissolving Parliament, the decision of the High Elections Commission has come to exclude the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) from voting in the special vote, which is stricted to the security forces, and rather, including it in the general suffrage. This decision has angered the militias loyal to Iran, led by Fatah Alliance, the political arm for the PMF.

 “The PMF did not provide the commission with the names of their affiliates, so the Electoral Commission has included them in the general vote since no PMF members’s data has been sent to the commission,” Jumana Al-Ghalai, the spokeswoman for the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq, says. She points out that the right of the Popular Mobilization members is preserved in the general vote.

Confusion and competition…

According to the commission, the special vote is scheduled to start on October 8th while the general vote will be held two days later. The number of those entitled to vote is 25 million and 139 thousand and 375, however, the number of registered voters has reached nearly 15 million.

“The commission has sent 4 official letters to the Popular Mobilization Authority asking for data about their affiliates so that they can participate in the special vote, nevertheless, these data came after the updating period has ended as it began in February and lasted till last April,” The spokeswoman for the commission confirms. “The Popular Mobilization data were long overdue, and the Commission was unable to include them in the special vote, however, they are covered by the general vote, and their right to the 2021 elections is preserved in the general vote,” she adds.

 “The Electoral Commission is committed to a schedule of operations and timings, and it cannot delay its work since each of these phases has a time schedule, according to which the Electoral Commission proceeds with its work, as any breach of this schedule would affect the election date,” Al-Ghalai states.

It is worthy of note that more than 25 million voters were invited to vote in the early elections on October 10th, which were supposed to be held in 2022, according to a new electoral law that adopts multiple electoral districts and the voting is for one candidate. This law is supposed to limit the dominance of large parties and the PMF that owns a political bloc. The political bloc associated with the PMF in the current parliament includes 48 representatives out of 329, and they first entered parliament in 2018.

Days before the early Iraqi elections, the PMF militia appealed to 30,000 of those who were dismissed because of their crimes, as the head of the Popular Mobilization Authority announced that those whose contracts had been terminated in recent years would get back to work. This clearly indicates that the militias are ready to the utmost degree of violence in order to secure its interests and the interests of Iran to reach Parliament.

Technical dismissal…

In addition, observers believe that the commission’s decision will not affect the Popular Mobilization because its members have already obtained the biometric cards to vote, and everyone will participate in the elections, whether in the special or general vote. This deprivation is a merely technical administrative issue. On the other hand, others assert that the Popular Mobilization is linked to pro-Iranian factions, and in excluding its elements, the blocs associated with it in the voting process would be adversely affected.

Mohammed Al-baldawi, a representative of Fatah Alliance led by Hadi Al-Amiri, considers that the excluding decision has been orchestrated deliberately by political parties he did not mention their name. According to him, this decision has come to prevent the PMF fighters from participating in the elections. “There are clear fingerprints standing behind Excluding the Popular Mobilization fighters from casting their votes in the special vote,” he opines.

It is also noteworthy that at the end of 2016, the parliament passed a law regulating the PMF work to become an official military force under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Prime Minister. Still, the PMF factions are linked to pro-Iranian parties that are running for the second time in the elections, and the number of PMF members is estimated at more than 160,000.

“PMF differs from other armed forces as it consists of brigades that are linked to factions, and when excluding any of its elements, the blocs associated with it are for sure negatively affected in the voting process,” MP Gatah Al-Rekabi, a member of the Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, stresses. “The reason announced by the commission is that the PMF did not deliver the names, but there is another matter that must be taken, that is, if the names did not arrive, they could still participate in the general vote,” he explains.

The representative of the State of Law Coalition has also explained that the right to vote is guaranteed to all Iraqis, and no party has the right to deprive anyone of that. “The Electoral Commission must answer questions about whether the decision to exclude the PMF from the special vote is motivated by political goals or not,” he says.

The competing blocs live in a state of confusion due to the difficulty of convincing the indignant public of the necessity of electing them. Until now, there are some parties that have not found anything to urge voters and arouse their enthusiasm. Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the State of Law coalition, who hopes to top the list in the Shiite provinces, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the State Forces Alliance, and Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Fatah Alliance, continue their tours while the Sadrists are satisfied with only listening to Muqtada al-Sadr’a directives, their leader.

Warnings and civil war…

In contrast, the leaders of the Iranian-backed electoral blocs and the Shiite factions have revealed that there is a will to rig the legislative elections. “There is a will to falsify the parliamentary elections electronically and, on the ground,” Qais Khazali, the Secretary-General of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement who heads the largest Shiite militia loyal to Iran, says. He claims that there is no clear and reassuring result to prevent field forgery, and that the political forces are discussing this file with Mustafa Al-Kadhi, the Prime Minister. In addition, he stresses that changing the electoral security policy may contribute to reducing forgery.

The leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia heads Al-Sadiqoun Bloc of Fatah list led by Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Organization, which brings together all Shiite factions loyal to Iran, including the Badr Organization and the Islamic Supreme Council headed by Humam Hamoudi.

Khazali’s statements came days after Nouri al-Maliki, the head of the State of Law Coalition, used the words “forgery” and “civil war,” which is a clear sign to the sharp conflict between the competing Shiite blocs. Al-Maliki had warned referring to the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr against attempts to rig the elections.

However, political sources have underrated the importance of Khazali’s warnings of forgery. They have drawn attention that these statements are just an attempt to attend the complicated electoral festival, which is difficult to predict its results next week.

“Khazali wants to pre-empt matters, for fear that Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia candidates would fail to obtain the required votes, especially since the competition is fierce with the same Shiite allies in Fatah Alliance list,” political sources confirm to the media. According to the same sources, the Iraqi street that is revolting against the militias clearly realizes that Khazali does not represent a solution to the country’s exacerbating crisis.”

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia has used the support of Kazem al-Haeri, a cleric in Iran as he issued a fatwa forbidding electing those who are hostile to PMF, or who hide behind claims of merging the PMF with the security forces in order to weaken or dilute it.

It is worth noting that Shiite parties and militias are represented by a group of competing electoral lists, through which they aspire to obtain the position of prime minister. The Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr participates in a separate electoral list that does not hide its quest for the position of prime minister. Moreover, there are Fatah Alliance list, which includes factions loyal to Iran and the State of Law coalition headed by al-Maliki, on the contrary to Haider al-Abadi, the former Prime Minister, who chose to ally with Ammar al-Hakim in the National Iraqi Alliance.

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