Saturday, May 12, 2018

Iraq elections 2018: Historic low turnout and fraud alleged in Sulaimani while at least 3 people die in violence

Daniel Bellamy (EURO NEWS) reports 3 people died from a bombing after polls closed -- two were voters and one was a polling observer.  These were the first parliamentary elections since April 30, 2014.  At that time, the Islamic State was on the rise thanks to the actions of then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki but they had yet to seize territory.

Strangely, there are 'experts' (gas bags) who judge ISIS by how much territory they hold when holding territory was actually not their goal or aim but something they managed to do because of Nouri al-Maliki's corruption, violence and ineptitude.

The elections that took place today had been postponed.  In addition, they were cut in half -- this was supposed to combine provincial and parliamentary elections.

That didn't happen and provincial candidates may be very grateful about that since turnout was very, very low.  Nabih Bulos (LOS ANGLES TIMES) notes, "Before noon, Prime Minister Haider Abadi ordered the curfew lifted in what was thought to be a bid to encourage more people to come out to vote, but it appeared to have little effect even with 30 minutes before polls closed at 6 p.m."

Why would they be excited?

 Ali Jawad (ANADOLU AGENCY) notes, "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 adds, "Around 7,000 candidates have registered to stand in the May 12 poll, with 329 parliamentary seats up for grabs."  AFP explains that the nearly 7,000 candidates includes 2014 women.  THE SIASAT DAILY adds, 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) report, "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."    RUDAW also notes that 60 Christian candidates are competing for the five allotted minority seats.  How do they elect the prime minister?  This comes after the general election and is based on who won seats in the election.   Abdulrahman al-Rashed (AL ARABIYA) explains, "To win the premiership, a candidate needs to win the majority of the votes, i.e. the votes of 165 MPs out of 329. Since it is a multi-party system, it is almost impossible to win these votes without sealing political alliances. The governorate of Baghdad is the most important one because it is the largest with 69 seats."  The chief issues?  Mustapha Karkouti (GULF NEWS) identifies them as follows, "Like in previous elections, the main concerns of ordinary Iraqis continue to be the lack of security and the rampant corruption."  Sunday, RUDAW explained that the electoral commission "so far fined 210 candidates for violations of commission guidelines."

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. 

I'm sorry, where's the special counsel investigating that?

Oh, that's right, in the US, Americans only get outraged when they feel their elections are stolen, not when they know they stole another country's elections.  So it's not at all surprising that NPR states, "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." It's left to AP to point out the obvious NPR ignored, "No election since 2003 saw turnout below 60 percent."  AFP also spoke 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 [. . .]."

So this turnout was historically low.

Martin Chulov (GUARDIAN) reports:

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. Election monitors outnumbered voters at several polling stations in west Baghdad. “I’m just doing my duty,” said Samira Ahmed in the suburb of Mansour. “We hope it will lead to something, but we doubt it,” said a second woman.

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa (AP) explain, "Results are expected within the next 48 hours according to the independent body that oversees Iraq’s election, but negotiations to choose a prime minister tasked with forming a government are expected to drag on for months."

Not all was peaceful.  REUTERS notes, "The governor of Iraq’s Kirkuk province declared a curfew on Saturday and ordered a manual recount of votes there in the national election, saying an electronic counting system had produced an 'illogical' result."  What's going on there?

Well there is a disagreement regarding the Kirkuk vote between the KDP and PUK.  But that's really less interesting than what's going on in Sulaimani which is also in the Kurdistan Regional Government.  RUDAW reports that the PUK is said to have done well in that area.  And that no one believes those to be honest or accurate outcomes.  The Coalition for Democracy and Justice is stating that "large scale fraud has been committed."

Okay, but --

Wait, we're not finished.

The KRG's second most popular party, Goran (Change) says there's no way the PUK won in that region. 

We're still not done.

Komal also says it couldn't have happened and that "we will not abide to those results."

Still not done.  The Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Kurdistan Communist Party also state there's no way the PUK could have won.

Still not done.  The KDP says the results indicate "systematic fraud."

The PUK is the party of the Talabanis.  After Jalal Talabani's stroke and Hero Talabani and others lying for over 18 months that Jalal was fit to continue as president while hiding him out in Germany and propping him up for staged photos, the PUK went from the second most popular party in the KRG to the third most popular.

Goran then moved up to second place.  The KDP is the party of the Barzanis and, in the last election cycle for parliamentary elections and for provincial elections, the KDP is the most popular party in the KRG.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan and PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: