Let's open with this from Jane Arraf's piece for THE NEW YORK TIMES:
One night in May, Samira Abbas Kadhim was up late, waiting for her son. She poked her head out of the gate of their small house, looking for him down the narrow street.
Five minutes later, as she was in the kitchen, he was shot dead half a block away.
Her son, Ehab al-Wazni, was one of dozens of antigovernment protest leaders believed to have been killed by militia fighters and security forces since the demonstrations escalated two years ago. But his killing stands out as a particularly brazen attack that has rattled his home city, Karbala, the site of some of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam and once considered one of the safest cities in Iraq.
Karbala, the southern Iraqi city whose gold-domed shrines attract Shiite pilgrims from around the world, has become a flash point in Iraq’s internal conflict over the presence of dozens of powerful Iranian-backed militias. Instead of being known mostly as a place for quiet prayer and study, it has become a cauldron of competing armed groups and political interests.
The most powerful militias, technically under the authority of the Iraqi government, are a force unto themselves, attacking enemies including rival militias, American military posts and the antigovernment protesters.
The protesters, who have demanded jobs and an end to corruption, have also called for an end to Iranian influence, which they blame for many of Iraq’s problems. Iran is taking a stand in Karbala, apparently fearing that if it loses influence there, other cities in Iraq’s Shiite heartland will follow.
The protesters are part of The October Revolution which kicked off in the fall of 2019. As ARAB WEEKLY notes, "Tens of thousands of Iraqi youths took to the streets to decry rampant corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds." This is what forced the resignation of one prime minister and has led to national elections which are supposed to take place October 1st. Charlotte Bruneau (REUTERS) notes that the candidates for Parliament include 951 women ("close to 30% of the total number of candidates") who are running for the 329 seats. Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) has reported Jeanine Hannis-Plasschaert, the Special Representiative in Iraq to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declared that Iraq's "Female candidates face increasing levels of hate speech, violence, and blackmail intended to force them to withdraw their candidacy."
Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office. RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote. The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office." Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign. Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq. Halgurd Sherwani (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday." And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online. THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."
THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout. Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003." Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution. Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities." Distrust is all around. Halkawt Aziz (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians."
After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage." Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group). ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement." Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki. Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that, "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."
The following sites updated: