(Baghdad) A record abstention tainted the early legislative elections in Iraq, according to official figures published on Monday, the day after a vote boycotted by voters who castigated endemic corruption, failing public services and a system deemed incapable of improving their living conditions.
The country is still awaiting the results of the legislative elections, which took place without major incident and on the basis of a new electoral law establishing a single-member ballot supposed to encourage independents and local candidates.
The electoral commission pledged to publish on Monday the names of the winners for each of the 83 constituencies, its leader, Jalil Adnane, announcing at midday that the results were available for ten of the country’s 18 provinces, including Kerbala, Najaf (center), or Erbil, capital of autonomous Kurdistan (north).
But it is impossible for the moment to know the number of seats won by each formation in the unicameral Parliament (329 seats), the committee not revealing the affiliations of the winners.
These legislative elections, the fifth since 2003 and the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, were marked by a record abstention.
In theory, some 25 million Iraqis were called to the polls. The electoral commission announced a “preliminary” turnout of 41% among the more than 22 million registered voters.
In Baghdad, the rate varied between 31% on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and 34% on the western bank of the river. In polling stations visited by AFP, attendance remained very limited, voters, often elderly, arriving only in small quantities.
In 2018, the stake was 44.52%. At the time, opponents, but also experts had estimated these inflated official figures.
Sunday’s elections were initially scheduled for 2022. Promised by Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kazimi, they were brought forward to calm the protest born in October 2019, to denounce the sprawling corruption, a stalled economy, and failing public services in a country yet rich in oil.
Suppressed in blood – at least 600 dead and 30,000 wounded – the movement ran out of steam. Dozens of activists were victims of kidnappings and assassinations. The protesters point to the armed factions loyal to Iran, with an essential role in Iraq and grouped within Hachd al-Chaabi.
According to experts, traditional blocs should preserve their representation in a fragmented parliament. The absence of a clear majority forces the negotiation of alliances.
The political scientist Ihsan al-Shamari predicts “political friction” and “struggles for the post of prime minister and the distribution of ministries”, but in fine, “all the indicators confirm a return to a political consensus”.
On Monday, 26-year-old Kerar Haider, a cantonment officer, was busy removing election posters adorning the Kerrada district of Baghdad. He did not vote “because it is useless.”
“The same faces come back and don’t change”.
Lack of legitimacy
“People are not convinced that the elections will lead to change and improvement in the performance of government or public services,” says political scientist Sajad Jiyad.
After an election marked by a low turnout, “it is not only the legitimacy of the next prime minister that will be called into question. But also the legitimacy of the government, the state and the entire system ”.
At the head of a current considered favorite, the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr welcomed the “success” of the electoral process.
In case of victory, the Sadrist current will still have to deal with the great rivals of Hachd al-Chaabi, who entered Parliament in 2018 by surfing the victory against the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).
One of the historic Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, denounced fraud that penalized four of its candidates.
If the political scene remains polarized on the same sensitive issues – whether it is the presence of American troops or the influence of the big Iranian neighbor – the parties will begin long negotiations to agree on a new prime minister. This post has traditionally been held by a Shiite Muslim.
Moustafa al-Kazimi is officially not a candidate for his succession but he continues to put forward his policy: on Monday he announced the arrest of Sami Jasim al-Jaburi, a senior ISIS official wanted by the United States.