May 12th, Iraq held national elections. Ahead of the elections, there had been big hopes -- these hopes included a large turnout. Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) noted, "A total of 24 million Iraqis are eligible to cast their ballots to elect members of parliament, who will in turn elect the Iraqi president and prime minister." RUDAW added, "Around 7,000 candidates have registered to stand in the May 12 poll, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs." AFP explained that the nearly 7,000 candidates includes 2014 women. THE SIASAT DAILY added, of the nearly 7,000 candidates, "According to the electoral commission, only 20 percent of the candidates are newcomers." Ali Abdul-Hassan and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reported, "Iraqi women account for 57 percent of Iraq’s population of over 37 million, according to the U.N. Development Program, and despite government efforts to address gender inequality, the situation for Iraqi women has declined steadily since 2003. According to the UNDP, one in every 10 Iraqi households is headed by a widow. In recent years, Iraqi women suffered further economic, social and political marginalization due to decades of wars, conflict, violence and sanctions."
The other big hope? For the US government, the biggest hope was that Hayder al-Abadi's bloc would come in first so that he would have a second term as prime minister. It was not to be. Mustapha Karkouti (GULF NEWS) identifies the key issues as follows, "Like in previous elections, the main concerns of ordinary Iraqis continue to be the lack of security and the rampant corruption."
As we noted the day of the election:
Corruption is a key issue and it was not a topic explored by candidates outside of Moqtada al-Sadr's coalition. Empty lip service was offered. Hayder al-Abadi, current prime minister, had been offering empty lip service for four years. He did nothing. Iraqis were supposed to think that, for example, Hayder's focus on ISIS in Mosul mattered. All life was supposed to stop because of Mosul? All expectations were to be ignored because of Mosul?
Arabic social media today and yesterday was full of comments about the lack of improvement in services. It noted how the elections had not mattered before and, yes, how in 2010 the US government overturned the elections because they didn't like the outcome.
So it was probably only surprising to the US government and their press hacks that Hayder wouldn't come in first. But that was after the votes were counted. On the day of the election, the big news was how so few were turning out to vote. NPR reported, "With more than 90 percent of the votes in, Iraq's election commission announced voter turnout of 44.5 percent. The figure is down sharply from 60 percent of eligible voters who cast their ballots in the last elections in 2014." AP pointed out the obvious, "No election since 2003 saw turnout below 60 percent." AFP broke it down even more clearly "More than half of the nearly 24.5 million voters did not show up at the ballot box in the parliamentary election, the highest abstention rate since the first multiparty elections in 2005 [. . .]."
Why should they vote? The US government had repeatedly selected the prime minister -- 2006, 2010 and 2014. Why should they vote? The government was corrupt. Why should they vote? Safety? Lip service was given to the claim that ISIS had been defeated but it hadn't. In fact, Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) reported that 16 people were killed and nineteen wounded the day of the election.
Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) captured the mood, "But as voters trudged towards polling stations, there was none of the euphoria of previous polls – where purple ink-dipped fingers were happily displayed – and almost no energy surrounding the process. Iraqis had done it all before, and elections had delivered little."
Sunday the 13th, votes were counted and the first place winner? Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.
With over half the votes counted, powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the leading contender in the Iraq elections aje.io/drn3n
By Monday the 14th, Ayad Allawi was calling for a full recount. While the US government was working behind the scenes to oveturn the results. Simon Tisdall (GUARDIAN) explained, "The unexpectedly poor showing of Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, in parliamentary elections has dealt a blow to US influence in the country. [. . .] Put simply, Sadr believes Iraqis should run Iraqi affairs – not Washington, not Tehran and not their proxies."
The US State Dept was still reeling from the results:
QUESTION: I have two more on this, Heather. Do you have any comment on Moqtada al-Sadr, who emerged as the big winner in these elections?
MS NAUERT: Yes. Let me just remind folks that he wasn’t an actual candidate on any of the ballots, but yet his slate of people were candidates. Iraq is still finalizing its election results right now. They’re likely to have to form some sort of coalition government, so I don’t want to get ahead of the process and presume how things are going to look in the end. But I think the overarching theme right now is congratulations to Iraq for holding democratic and free elections.
QUESTION: And on the formation of the new government, Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s commander Qasem Soleimani is in Baghdad to discuss the formation of the new government. How do you view this Iranian role in the formation of the government?
MS NAUERT: We have a good relationship – bless you – with the Government of Iraq, and we believe that we will continue to do that. There have been many – in Iraq and in other countries as well – that have been concerned about Iran’s reach into many other countries. That is certainly always a concern of ours, but we have a great deal of trust and faith in the Iraqi people and whoever ends up governing, whatever the structure is, the governing of that country going forward.
It's June 30th, recounts are too start on July 3rd. That will be about two months after the election took place. Maybe then there will be a government?
Maybe not. In 2010, it was over eight months after the election before Iraq formed a government.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated: