Intimidation and threats against Iraqi activists by pro-Iranian militias and some of its affiliated parties continue before the early parliamentary elections in October, while political parties fear electoral fraud, as armed factions control the country’s political and security situation.
Hasan Salman, the Director of Media and Mass Communication at the Independent High Electoral Commission, has expected that the number of candidates withdrawing from the electoral race would reach more than a hundred candidates.
“The commission has nothing to do with the withdrawal, whether the withdrawal was a personal decision or under pressure, and what is important for it is that the withdrawal request be in accordance with the controls,” he points out.
Intimidation and assassination
The Iraqi Electoral Commission had excluded 226 candidates from running in the early parliamentary elections scheduled for next October, for their inclusion in the procedures of the “Accountability and Justice Law.”
“The withdrawal of some entities from the Iraqi elections due to the security situation does not necessarily mean postponing them,” Hussein al-Hindawi, the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Electoral Affairs, says. “There is no information about threats against candidates,” he adds.
“The Iraqi state is not in control of the situation, and it will be very difficult to hold free elections in these circumstances,” Iraqi activists say. “The militias are stronger than the state itself, and that the old guard is in control, and the internationally monitored elections will only legitimize them,” activists consider.
It is noteworthy that Iraq passed a new election law in 2019, encouraging independent candidates, in a move aimed at encouraging pro-democracy youth to run for office, but few of them have done so far. Hisham al-Mouzani, an activist who co-founded a new political party, asserts that it was a series of deployments by supporters of competing militias in Baghdad this year that frightened his party from running in the elections.
“Continued intimidation and impunity, create an environment in which large parties and militia-linked groups will do well in the October elections,” analysts say.
According to UN data, at least 32 anti-establishment activists have been killed in operations by unknown armed groups since October 2019.
In the past few weeks, Iraq has witnessed attacks against candidates for the upcoming elections, the latest of which was an attack by unknown gunmen targeting candidate Ammar al-Rubaie in Karbala in the south of the country last Sunday, seriously injuring him.
Al-Kadhimi is moving..
The confrontation between the Popular Mobilization and Al-Kadhimi government is emerging before the elections, as the PMF have been trying for two weeks to organize an official military parade in Baghdad, on the anniversary of its founding the Popular Mobilization. It aims to mobilize support for the Al-Fateh List, which will compete during the upcoming elections.
It is noteworthy that Iran has renewed confidence in Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr militia, to lead the Al-Fateh List, which brings together Shiite militias to compete in the general elections scheduled for October 10.
Media sources have confirmed that Al-Kadhimi directed to prevent the Popular Mobilization Forces from organizing a military parade in Baghdad for which twenty thousand members of PMF with medium weapons and tanks were prepared. This parade was meant to be held as anniversary of the establishment of PMF in the summer of 2014. While sources in PMF have announced that, the parade was postponed to the end of this month in order to have wider participation.
Yesterday, Wednesday, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraqi Prime Minister, gave orders to the leaders of the army and security services to double the efforts to provide a safe environment for citizens and candidates to go through the upcoming early parliamentary elections and, therefore, encourage the citizens to participate widely.
“There are those who are trying to create despair and frustration in the hearts of citizens for certain purposes, and the citizens have the right to demand their rights and our duty to provide them; we must confront the challenges facing our country with all our energy to overcome them and secure the needs of citizens,” says the Iraqi Prime Minister.
He has pledged to hold fair elections in a safe atmosphere far from the tyranny of arms.
The Iraqi Election Commission has reported earlier that 24 million people are entitled to vote in the general parliamentary elections scheduled for October 10. The Commission has also revealed that about 3,500 candidates belonging to 276 parties and 44 alliances will go through the elections to fill the 329 parliament seats.
Eliminating the Militias…
Furthermore, political sources have revealed to Arab media that the Iraqi Prime Minister is preparing for a round of meetings with various political leaders of the main blocs in the country. These meetings are to make an agreement that emphasizes the importance of preventing armed factions from interfering in the electoral process in any form; starting from the electoral campaign stage through the voting process until announcing the results, whatever their nature.
The document of this agreement also highlights the importance of activating the laws of the Electoral Commission that give it the right to criminalize sectarian and racist discourse in electoral campaigns and deport the candidate who is proven to have done so. The exploitation of public money and government influence in electoral campaigns would be criminalized as well.
The media sources have drawn attention that Al-Kadhimi’s move has the support of Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Wisdom Movement and head of the Victory Alliance and Haider al-Abadi, the former Prime Minister, alongside the United Nations mission support in Baghdad.
It is noteworthy that the civil blocs and forces, which has been formed from the womb of the popular demonstrations, are concerned about the candidacy of the blocs that have armed wings, such as AL-Sadiquon: a bloc affiliated with the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr: a bloc affiliated with Badr Organization, Sanad: a bloc affiliated with Jund al-Imam faction, Ataa: a bloc led by Faleh al-Fayyad, the head of the Popular Mobilization Authority. In addition to other formations and militias that have decided not to run in the elections, but they do not hide their support for specific blocs.
More than 80-armed factions from the Popular Mobilization are deployed in northern, western and central Iraq. For their benefits, offices, representations and camps are distributed in the south, central and Baghdad regions and they practice political, social, religious and economic activities.
In turn, some political parties have suggested putting off the elections and not holding them on time. These parties have attributed the reasons to the lack of stability in the security situation and the spread of armed manifestations in many cities of the country. On the other hand, the three presidencies in Iraq have confirmed that the elections will be held on the scheduled date next October.
In addition, Hazem Al-Khalidi, the head of the Follow-up and Implementation Committee for the Government Program, believes that there is a major imbalance in the government’s performance regarding the control of money and weapons.
“There are political parties, which own money and weapons will control and re-establish their presence in the House of Representatives, and that the next parliament will not change a lot from the current one if money and weapons remain under the control of the well-known political blocs,” Al-Khalidi stresses.
Observers believe that political conflicts will escalate further as long as the legislative elections scheduled for October 10 are coming closer. While calls are being made for the need for international monitoring of the electoral process to ensure its integrity and to express the voter’s desire rather than the aspirations of political blocs, especially those that have lost their audience.
The Iraqi Council of Ministers has announced its approval for the Independent High Electoral Commission to use the services of employees, students of universities and institutes, and graduates of preparatory studies to complete the Parliament elections. The General Secretariat of the Iraqi Council of Ministers has agreed on contracting procedures for printing ballot papers and forms for the upcoming Parliament elections as the General Secretariat has decided to grant an exceptional advance to a German company to print Ballot papers.