Iraqi parties reject “scam” election

October 13, 2021 - 15:44

TEHRAN - Many parties, mostly Shia parties, have denounced the early poll results describing them as a “manipulation” and a “scam” just days after Iraq’s parliamentary election.

The leader of the conquest (Fatah) party, the outgoing parliament’s second-largest alliance, Hadi al-Ameri, rejected the results and warned, “we will not accept these fabricated results whatever the cost and we will defend the votes of our candidates and voters will full force”.

The conquest’s leader’s remarks were echoed by other party leaders.

The state of the law coalition leader and former Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, also rejected the results despite his party gaining more seats than the previous election.

A joint statement by several parties, including the Fatah Alliance, said, “we will appeal against the results, and we reject them”. The statement also signed by the party of former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, who served from 2014 to 2018, also said, “we will take all available measures to prevent the manipulation of votes”.

The Popular Mobilization Units, some of whom have switched from military to politics after they spearheaded the defeat against Daesh, condemned the results as well.

One of the Popular Mobilization Units (also known as the Hashd al-Sha’abi) most powerful faction, the Hezbollah Brigades, rejected the election as “the biggest scam and rip-off the Iraqi people have been subjected to in modern history.”

The Hezbollah Brigades spokesman, Abu Ali al-Askari, accused the new electoral system of attempts to distort 
the image of the popular force saying, “the Hashed al-Shaabi brothers are the main targets”.

The Popular Mobilization Units was formed in 2014 and went on to play the most significant role in the defeat of Takfiri Daesh terrorists, which at one point had expanded its control of Iraq to over a third of the country.

After defeating Daesh, many of the Popular Mobilization Units went on to integrate into Iraq’s state security apparatus as per a law passed by parliament. Others went into politics and joined the Conquest (Fatah) alliance which won second place in the 2018 parliamentary election. The alliance fielded many of its candidates in parliament.

The Iraqi Electoral Commission later said the votes of 3,100 polling stations would be counted manually and added to the announced results.

Sunday’s parliamentary vote, the fifth in the violence-ravaged country since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, was marked by a turnout of 41 percent.

It did, however, for the first time, use a new bio-metric electronic voting system. The system automatically shut down at 6 pm on Sunday.

A copy of the results was sent to every party or independent candidate, which could be a major sign of why so many parties are opposing the election result as there are reports the numbers they received did not match the numbers announced.

Iraq’s election commission declared before the election on Sunday that it would announce the results by afternoon the following day. However, the announcement of the full results was delayed by up to seven and a half hours, with the only explanation given was technical problems. The commission did not explain exactly why those technical problems were.

According to preliminary results from the electoral commission, the biggest winner appeared to be the movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which increased its lead to 73 of the legislature’s 329 seats. Parliament speaker Mohamad al-Halbousi’s Toqadom (progress party) came in second place with 38 seats, despite state TV stating 43 seats. In third place (according to the election commission) was the state of law coalition with 37 seats. Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki also leads the party.

There were fears before the election that the German-made (imported from South Korea) bio-metric electronic voting system could be subject to hacking from foreign powers.

Incumbent Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s political future is uncertain, with few analysts willing to predict who will emerge as the country’s new leader. The incumbent Prime Minister brought forward the vote from 2022 to appease a mostly youth-led protest movement that erupted two years ago against corruption, unemployment and crumbling public services.

Following the election, Muqtada al-Sadr delivered a defiant speech talking about the future of the country, which observers said the tone sounded like that of a country’s leader, not a party leader.

No party has ever won a majority out of parliament’s 329 seats, so the usual negotiations to form the biggest alliance are expected to drag on longer.

The process of forming a new government (which had been expected to be formed quicker this time than the previous elections) is something still hanging in the air.

But there remains a big question mark after the objections voiced by so many parties over what they say is an election “scam”. Who interfered?

In any case, the Popular Mobilization Units (affiliated with the conquest alliance) are not expected to go anywhere. They have vowed to preserve the country’s sovereignty against any foreign occupation. They mean they will not rest until Iraq’s sovereignty is returned from the U.S. occupation.

That means the end of American military forces on Iraqi soil, an end to American warplanes flying over the skies of Iraq without prior permission of Baghdad. The closure of all U.S. military bases scattered across the country; Iraqi security personnel have no access to it, and it is unknown what is happening there. Essentially, American forces (except those advising Iraqi pilots on the F-15 fighter jets the Iraqi government has purchased) pack up their bags and leave the country.

The party that won the most seats, the Sadr party itself, has called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, where Washington maintains a force of at least 2,500 and an unknown number stationed at the U.S. embassy, which is viewed as a city within a city conspiring the large scale of the “diplomatic mission”. The Popular Mobilization Forces argue this is the government’s job, and it will exhaust all diplomatic efforts to achieve that goal. But if the government cannot achieve the end of the occupation through dialogue, they Popular Mobilization Forces and the Iraqi resistance have repeatedly declared they are prepared to resort to the use of arms and end the American occupation.

According to many analysts, only then can foreign interference end in Iraq’s domestic affairs and only then can Iraq’s economy and services to the local population improve.

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