The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) – November 2013
As the elections season approaching, and will take place on the 30th of April, 2014 after long disputes between the political blocs which have represented a major political crisis, the Iraqi parliament approved a law to amend the election law of the House of Representatives. With a unanimous vote on the law on the 4th of November.
The passing of the law came accompanied with a signs of many external and internal pressures which contributed to persuade Iraqi political forces, especially the National Alliance, who is leading the government; to approve the law and its amendments. Some talked about the pressure from President Obama and others talked about the pressures of the religious authorities in Iraq. While it seems that there is still some debate on the possibility to overturn the new law in the Federal Supreme Court.
The new law adopted open lists and multi-departments, and approved the system of “Saint Lego” as a way to calculate the seats and divide the votes, which resembles somehow the way that was adopted in the last provincial elections, which allowed the small political blocks to have seats, and not to rotate the remaining seats to the large blocs as before. The law approved the continuation of depending on the statistics of the Ministry of Commerce regards the number of the population, because they were not able to conduct a new census. The new law, adopted 30-year-old as the minimum age for the nomination of the council membership, and the candidate must have obtained a certificate of secondary school at the less. The law also kept the audit carried out by the Accountability and Justice Commission according to the law of the commission, or any other replaced law.
According to the new law, which was published by a number of Iraqi newspapers such as Al-Mada Press, the number of the House of Representatives members became 328, adding 3 seats distributed among the governorates of Anbar, Basra and Kurdistan. The law confirmed the remaining of women’s share by at least 25%, while the share of 8 seats gave to the religious components with 5 seats for Christians, and one for each of the Yazidis and Mandaeans and Shabaks.
Supporters of this law thinks that this law gives better opportunities to the small and medium-sized lists, and will contribute to end the dominance of the so-called big lists that won in the last elections, which mostly have the character of the political orientation related to religion and religious doctrine, with the exception of the province of Kurdistan.
The reason of linking the increasing of opportunities for small and medium-lists with the idea of change is that allowing the small lists will give an opportunity to those lists with the civil shapes and non-religious or national lists whom are non-biased on sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shia. Thus, you get a turn in favor of the citizen and citizenship interests, leaving the religions to the citizen and his personal liberty as religious or not. Some supporters indicates the opportunities for change to the fact that the Iraqis have learned from the past period not to trust the lists and blocs which printed the Iraqi political scene with a number of crises and controversies that threatened the security and integrity of the fabric of Iraqi society. Even in case number of those lists win in the coming elections, the question is still based on the chances of forming a stable government in the next parliament, if it is already divided into multiple and mixed blocks to some extent makes it difficult to create alliances.
There is no doubt on the amount of change that can get through the next election, but the question now is about the size and the direction of this change. It seems like the Iraqi civil society is the biggest bookie for a drastically change, while the traditional alliances are based on religious and clan ties, the hope of many Iraqis remains on the civil society actors, in creating a replacement that depends on the Iraqi identity and poses a political program that does not differentiate between the citizens according to the religion or sect, and offers a real guarantees for personal freedoms and respect human rights. The balance of civil society movements since 2011 and since Al-Tahrir Square demonstrations in Baghdad and their counterparts in several Iraqi provinces, seems to be growing. In addition to that, we can see the success of the activities organized outside the framework of sectarian speech and sectarian partisanship, such as the “Festival of Peace” which was organized for two consecutive years in the gardens of Abu Nawas, and the event of “I’m Iraqi, I read” or the “Campaign of Canceling the Pensions of Former Parliamentarians” or “The Campaign to Save the Tigris River” or “The Iraqi Social Forum” event, which was held in the courtyard of Qushleh on late September 2013. All these activities could be contributing to grow a new civilian alternative that supports the social change significantly. But the criterion in such change, in all cases is not civilian elites, but the public voters, which represents the majority, and who can be wooed for their emotions and religious and tribal inclinations again!
Some rely on the choice of the majority of the voters in favor of the change, because of the continuing failure to provide services such as electricity, infrastructure, water, and sewer. This sense reinforces the continued deterioration of security in the meantime which is largely supported by deep political disagreements between the powerful political forces, where a new chapter of conflicts have already begun in the political scene on the mechanism of elections in Kirkuk, which is run by unelected council.
From its part, the Arabia bloc in the province of Kirkuk have explained in the words of the member of the provincial council, Mohammed Khalil Al-Jubouri that it is going to participate in the elections despite the lack of their accomplishments in the issues they were seeking to obtain approval on in the election law. On the other side, Turkmen seems more adherent to their position of rejecting the new election law, a member of the Provincial Council for the Turkmen component, Najat Hussein said that “the central government and the parliament have failed to check the voters registry in Kirkuk, and we demand either auditing the voter’s registry, or the applying the quota system”. And on the third side, the Kurds seems to be approving the elections law and accusing the other parties of trying to disrupt elections, the list of Kurdish brotherhood in the province of Kirkuk has indicated to the presence of some who are trying to put obstacles and contrary materials to the constitution to prevent the holding of elections.
While the complexity of the security reality is increasing in most of the provinces of Iraq, the deterioration of security situations is accompanied with the continuation to insist on a package of security measures, that rely on a sterile regionally security with walls and checkpoints and presence of a heavy military, detract the freedom of the citizen and fails at the same time in protecting him. Instead of choosing the concept of public security that based on building a close connection with the ordinary citizen. If the concept of security zones, and security walls and checkpoints was justified during the foreign military presence for the separation from society and the citizen, then it is very strange that the Iraqi government continues the same approach to impose the force and militarization, forgetting the negative consequences of it.
If the volume and direction of change is still uncertain, what is certain inevitably that the coming months will be critical, either the civil powers in all Iraqi provinces work hard and highly coordinate to rally around a national civilian non-partisan and non-religious alternative, believes in freedom for all Iraqis. And to convince the Iraqi citizen that it is the time to give the opportunity for civilian alternative, and that the vote in this election must not be a doctrine or religion, but a clear national political vision that sees Iraq as a modern civil state. Thus, the civil forces will invest the efforts of the past few years and probably will open a new page in the history of Iraq after the occupation.
And either the civil powers continue in their division and blurry of what it calls for of a timid change, and leave the scene of a new conservative forces of a religious characters, especially since the latter is preparing and mobilizing their people and continue to strengthen the sectarian divide as the only option in Iraq, for those who are in power or those who are in opposition. It is the case that we have experienced the past four years, which if continued for four more years, will not result only more division and rivalry and threat to the fabric of Iraqi unity and the future of Iraq as a whole.