Foreign Policy Blogs

Iraqi Provincial Elections to Take Place Saturday

Iraqi provincial elections will take place tomorrow, serving as a segue into the national elections to be held later this year.  The mainstream media outlets are framing this event as a wonderful change from the last election day, which was riddled with violence.  To a degree, I believe this is true.  But the real challenge starts here, as the Iraqi people again test the waters of democracy. 

This election is extremely important because it will show majority populations in each province and city, it will be a glimpse into the national election and, with the US planning to withdraw in the next couple years, this is truly a major step toward Iraqi sovereignty. 

The lines that the election draws tomorrow will set the stage for possible future population rifts and violence.  The Iraqi people seem to have embraced democracy, but what happens when Arabs win majorities in Mosul, a city also populated by Kurds?  What about if the Sadrists aren't able to shut out the parties they don't want in control?  Extremist groups have reached for violence as a last-ditch effort in the past, and who's to say that won't happen again.  For example, car bombs and suicide bombers are still attacking Mosul. 

More than that, because we can hope that Iraqis will truly embrace all aspects of democracy, even that of a bitter loss to your political rival, these provincial elections will give us a glimpse into the potential power of religious political parties.  In an article sent to me by my editor, Robert Nolan, Daniel Graeber, who writes on the upcoming elections for IslamOnline.net, quotes the National Media Center (NMC) January 20th statistics on voters.  The NMC found that 42% of voters said they were likely to back secular candidates and 31% claimed they were more in favor of the sectarian parties.  Seeing how the different parties gain power in the provinces will lend insight into how the national elections will progress. 

Along with the religious political parties comes the issue of women's roles in politics.  The New York Times published a video report yesterday outlining Iraqi women's struggles to gain access to provincial politics.  I think the report holds true to the liberal-thinking western ideal that Arab women are not granted power, which is a little disappointing.  Considering that the Iraqi Parliament has allowed women to be elected, their report seems a little exaggerated.  However, they do have a point when discussing the role of religion in politics and how it can negatively affect women.  Religious leaders will mostly shun women from attempting to gain power, and the Times reported that one female political hopeful was shot on Wednesday.  But this is not necessarily the case with secular parties.  Many women are running in this election, and this will be further demonstration of the political ideologies that are beginning to shape the country. 

I’m very interested to see the media reports tomorrow, and to see what direction Iraq is taking with their future.  I wish all the best to the voters who will venture out of their houses to take advantage of their political duty and privilege. 

 

Author

Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;

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