BAGHDAD–Iraqi sources told The Arab Weekly Thursday that the country’s parliamentary elections slated for October 10 could be postponed due to a u-turn of some political forces. These forces, the sources said, used to support the idea of holding early polls before they changed their mind.
Local Iraqi media had earlier reported that April 21, 2022 was proposed as an alternative date for holding the elections. The proposal, according to Iraqi media, was floated during a meeting late Tuesday in Baghdad, with the presence of the representatives of some political forces that were described as “balanced and influential.”
The sources, who spoke to The Arab Weekly on condition of anonymity, revealed that some Shia parties attributed their volte-face to the recent decision of the Sadrist movement to boycott the polls.
Some of those who attended Tuesday’s meeting in Baghdad believe that the Sadrist movement, led by powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, should be given an opportunity to reconsider its decision. In this regard, they fear that a boycott by Sadrists could end up creating a challenge to the legitimacy of the electoral process, and so to that of the future government.
A boycott by Sadrists, some political forces say, would mean the abstention of a large segment of the Iraqi society, given Sadr’s popularity among Shias.
A former Iraqi MP, however, lashed out at those calling for the postponement of elections, questioning the significance of the Sadrist movement’s boycott as a justification. In this regard, he argued that the Sadrists’ boycott was just a cover for the concerns for Shia forces and parties about failing to secure enough votes to control the future political scene in the country.
Powerful Shia political parties and figures, the former MP said, do not want the elections to be held at a time when public resentment is still palpable in the country. These forces are concerned they would become the subject of a punitive vote by Iraqis, which would lead to the loss of the influence they have maintained for eighteen years.
According to a source quoted by the Rudaw Media Network, the meeting on Tuesday witnessed the submission of another proposal to dissolve the current parliament on February 22, 2022.
The mandate of the current parliaments is supposed to end in 2022, but Iraq’s political parties had decided to hold early elections after massive popular protests toppled the previous government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi in late 2019.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih have insisted so far on holding elections on time.
The idea of postponing elections was floated long before the Baghdad meeting on Tuesday, garnering the support of many political forces in the country at the time.
The Sadr-backed Sairoon Alliance was among the latest political groupings to demand a postponement of elections, according to MP Bader Saegh al-Zayadi, who considered that a boycott by Sadrists would affect the legitimacy of the whole process, stressing that “the elections cannot be held on October 10.”
Zayadi noted that other parties had announced their intention to boycott the elections, at a time when the government and the international community insist on holding inclusive polls, with the participation of all political parties.
Zayadi was referring to the recent decision of the National Dialogue Front led by Sunni politician Salih al-Mutlaq, who expressed his concern about fraud, in a repeat of what happened during the 2018 elections.
Earlier in July, the Iraqi Platform, led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, announced they too were dropping out of the race. Wael Abdel Latif, deputy head of the Iraqi Platform party, said that with the presence of armed factions threatening the lives of activists, there is no room for fair elections. The electoral law in its current form may lead to internal war between those armed groups, he added.
The Iraqi National House, a new party formed by a group of Tishreen (October movement) protesters, also withdrew from the elections for the same reasons.
There is widespread apprehension among Iraqi political parties and forces about the possible outcome of the October 10 elections. Shia political parties, which were fervently denounced by protesters in their own strongholds in central and southern Iraq, are particularly concerned.
Sunni political forces are also fretting about the upcoming elections amid a steep decline in their popularity in Sunni regions in the west and north of the country. The Sunni population in the country’s west and north is still reeling from the cost of war against ISIS, having to deal with poor services and a slow reconstruction pace.