Iraqi elections still do not deliver democracy
As Iraqis head to the polls on 10 October, the headline for this election likely will be less about winners and losers and more about low voter turnout.
For many Western and Iraqi policymakers, parliamentary elections are essential to Iraq’s fledgling but critical transition to democracy. but in Iraq’s first free election in 2005, turnout was almost 80 per cent. Since then, the figure has declined.
In the most recent elections in 2018, the official turnout was 44 per cent of registered voters, though most observers and even some officials acknowledge it was probably much lower, possibly less than 30 per cent. Iraqis do not feel that elections represent a channel for their voices or an instrument for change.
To express their despair, protesters in October 2019 began sitting in city squares in Baghdad and in the south. They called for more than the removal of a party or leader; they wanted a change to the entire political system. Instead, they were met with lethal force, as the government killed 600 protesters and injured tens of thousands more.
At the time, some protesters demanded early elections. And this upcoming election is being held six months early to meet that demand. Yet, protest movements and many Iraqis intend to boycott it. To them, nothing has fundamentally changed in the political system. The same cast of leaders and parties are again competing to divide the wealth of a rich Iraqi state for themselves and their cronies.
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