The Political Scene: The myth of early elections in Iraq

Farhad Alaaldin
10th July 2020
In the Friday sermon of 31st Jan 2020, the representative of GA Sistani said “ returning to ballot boxes would be the better choice for the current time…. It is imperative to hold an early elections so that the people will have their say”
Since then, the political parties adopted the call for an early election without much conviction,only to show that they are agreeing with wishes of Marjaya.
The new government made early elections its first priority and it is written in its program “
Holding early elections after completing the electoral law, activating the Electoral Commission, and fully implementing the Law on Parties”
The UN Security Council in a statement issued on 13th of May reiterated its support to the Iraqi government and to “help the government and Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) in elections”
The question that begs to be asked, where the political parties, the parliament, the government and IHEC stands with the elections?

The Political Parties
Observers believe that majority of political parties are not for holding early elections,
because they are not convinced that they can succeed in preserving their status or increase their influence. However, some might see another point of view.
Sadrist movementbelieve the elections became a duty after the Marjaiyahcalled for it, their opposition discourse and active participation in the demonstrations are in harmony with the people who are demanding change,they believe they have what it takes to win more seats and become the largest bloc on their own.
AsaibAhlal-Haqqalso calling for early elections because they believe that the political processis heading against them, they have lost their grip on power after the resignation of Adel AbdulMehdi government and disintegration of Fath bloc, in addition, they believe that the discourse of resistance and opposition is in accord with the mood of the street that will lead to increase number of seats and consolidates their political position. It is worth mentioning that Badr Organisation within Fath Bloc is not as keen as AAH to hold early election despite the fact that they mention in their formal communications that they are for it.
The other supporting party is within Al-Nasr Alliance and the Al-Wafa Party, headed by Adnan AlZurfi specifically, early elections is in line with the guidelines of the Marjayia and their belief that the political process failed to find real solutions to the countries’ crises.
While the Coalition of Liberated Provinces supports early elections, provided that voting is by biometric card and under the UN supervision. They believe that they have an opportunity to change the parameters of the Sunni political map.
The political parties that are not eager to hold elections are the State of Law, alHikma Movement, AlQiwa Alliance, and the Kurdish parties in general. These parties either enjoy political influence, occupy highest positions in the state, or they share power at the present time, or do not believe that early elections will provide any new opportunities, while some of them believe that holding early elections will reduce their political influence and may drive them away from the political scene.

The Parliament
Holding of early elections requires the approval of the Parliament,as mentioned earlier, the majority of parties are not supportive, they have in excess of 200 members. At the same time, early elections means the end this current parliament, which in turn means current members losing their salaries and benefits. There is no motivation They also fear that there is no guarantee that they will take part in the upcoming elections or win a seat.Majority of them believe a bird in hand is better than ten on the tree.
Perhaps keeping the new election law which was voted upon on 24th of Dec 2019 unfinished after 7 months is a solid proof that the parliament is not interested in early elections.

The New Government
Although the government took it upon itself to hold early elections and made it their first priority, but it did not give this promise without conditions as it stipulated: 1- Completion of the electoral law, 2- Activation of the Electoral Commission, 3- Full implementation of the Law of Political Parties.
The government is facing major crises represented by the COVID19 and the suffocating financial crisis, it cannot allocate the necessary funds to IHEC. Such allocation is a crucial factor in conducting any election. While the government needs time to make progress and show some achievements, holding an early election means reducing the time the government might have and that will affect its standing and reputation.
In addition to financial difficulties, the election law is not complete, the IHEC is not yet operational, which means that the government has more than one reason not to proceed with early elections.

IHEC
Under pressure of the demonstrators, the Parliament decided to assign the IHEC’s duties to judges instead of appointing them itself to get away from “Muhasasa” or partisan quotas. 7 judges were elected as members of IHEC on December 23, 2019. The new commission started its duties in a completely collapsed institution after removing the general managers and branch office directors according to the new law. In addition, the new commission faced a number of legal, financial and contractual problems.
Furthermore, the commission lives in a legal vacuum because the new law is enacted, the previous law has been repealed, and preparations for the upcoming elections must be in accordance to the new law. At the same time, the commission needs significant financial allocations and the previous government did not allocate any funds to it, their hope was for the new government, but the financial crisis is preventing necessary funds to be allocated.
According to IHEC internal sources, they need 6-9 months for the administrative and internal restructuring after allocating the required funds, and they can hold elections after one year of that, which means that the commission will not be ready to hold the next elections until the end of the year 2021 or the first quarter of 2022.

Setting time for Elections
The calls for early elections were means of pressure by the protest movement and opposition on political parties, and the Marjaiyausedit to correct the political process, but political parties managed, as in the past, to procrastinate and circumvent it by various means.
Observers believe that there is no such thing as early elections, earliest can be held is in April or May 2022, which close to its due date given the current cycle started in 2018.

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