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Iraqi Parliamentary Elections: Between Reality, Outlooks, and Geopolitical Concerns

The Iraqi Parliamentary election will have impacts on different levels not only inside Iraq, but also on the geopolitical situation. This will be an attempt to point out the most important issues at hand.

One: a look from the outside world on inside Iraq

The fact that the external players do not know exactly, or cannot tell with confidence, who will be the next prime minister of Iraq is a sign of a healthy democracy and the recovery of the Iraqi political system and its independence.

However, the expectations of the majority of external observers on Iraqi politics are that the resulting numbers of seats for the election alliances will be somewhat close to each other 

Also, there is an outside expectation from the new election that it will produce a change in some faces and the emergence of a political generation of young people who are deeply in touch with Iraq’s reality and are able to think outside the box in order to solve Iraq’s various and complicated problems.

The sensitive geopolitical position in the region expects that the political maneuvering between Iraqi parties to form a government will be short and fast, in contrast to the expectations of the Iraqi parties who believe the process of forming a government will be complicated and laborious.

From an external point of view, there are important agendas for the next Iraqi government to focus on that will require a strong team to manage. These agendas include re-establishing Baghdad’s relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after the failure of the Kurdish Referendum; defining the limits of the movement and vitality of the Popular Mobilization Forces and controlling their rhythm within the security and military aspects of the state; activating a reform program to reduce the financial and administrative corruption of the state apparatus; expanding the economy outside the state’s sphere of rentier economy; and focusing on minorities to be within the protection of the state since they are citizens of the first degree, especially after the recent Da’ish violations of their existence and identity.

Two: a look from inside Iraq on the outside world

Everyone is talking about the important role of mentoring the political process coming from our eastern neighbour, our international allies, and the religious authority in Najaf. Is the political process still in the adolescent stage of its lifecycle despite the passage of 15 years from its birth? Or did the political process grow up and become a young person that needs to stand on their feet?

On a similar issue, after a decade and a half and with the active presence and strong interaction of the United States and the Iranians with the Iraqi state and its society, we can safely say that Iraq has not yet reached the stage in its relationship with both countries where it stands on a firm footing and on a strategic level. Will we need another decade and a half to reach a comfortable and clear form of relationship between Iraq and the United States on one hand and Iraq and neighboring Iran on the other? Do we, as a state and society have a clear roadmap for this necessary normalization?

Three: a look from inside on the inside

In regards to the internal views and realities on the situation in Iraq, political blocks are still not comfortable about knowing accurately the nature of their electoral weight, which is a clear indication that they do not know the exact depth and width of their influence within society. Here, these political blocs need to pause to think about the reasons behind this lack of knowledge. Do they have political programs which are bottom up and not vice versa? From the street’s perspective, do the people think these political blocs are similar and not offering anything distinctive, and hence will leave them with reluctance to participate in the election? Or will they participate, willing to try new choices and breaking the tradition of whom they vote for?

Furthermore, there are no clear predictions about the electoral weight of the various political parties or on the nature of their internal alliances following election day, which indicates a weak political dialogue between key players.

At the same time however, there is a desire to support a platform of some kind of political majority (representing all Iraqis) and hence the formation of a governing entity on one side and an opposition on the other side. But at the same time there is a lack of clarity in their programs and the method of forming the next government, especially if the big political blocks want to participate heavily in forming the government. This means going back to the old way of operating and losing the chance of political recovery after Iraq ended the Da’ish occupation.

Another important point is about the programs of the previous governments, which during the ceremony of their formation under the Council of Representatives included more than thirty requirements and objectives. I do not think we need to go back to them, but there is a real need for a realistic government program that can be implemented in the next four years.

There is also a real problem related to a large number of Iraqi parties participating in the parliamentary election, where some parties are one-person parties. In addition to that, some of the key political leaders did not nominate themselves to the House of Representatives, hence remaining outside the parliamentary arena. This means an increase in the number of [unelected] political leaders, noting that we need to reduce them in order to cultivate a healthy democratic atmosphere.

Last but not least, all thanks and gratitude to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and the rest of the Marja’eyya for not immersing themselves in the internal political infighting during this election season. Politicians need to leave the religious establishment out of the infighting and focus on improving their electoral programs and manifestos, which will be better for them and for the Marja’e who himself lives in a rented house.