Ballot in Iraq

The first vote in Iraq since the US troops pulled out is marred with confusion and crisis.

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Published: Mon 22 Apr 2013, 9:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

Apart from low turnout, the elections seem to be an exercise undertaken in political exigency, rather than one to usher in popular representation. That is so because sectarian and linguistic identities are too strong to be ignored, and Iraqis have not really come out of that kaleidoscopic prism. The country and its vote bank are clearly split in three constituencies of Shia, Sunni and Kurds that also come to represent the prevailing status quo.

With reports of widespread violence in the run-up to the election, the government has been forced to postpone polls in several of the constituencies, and that also include pockets representing the minority vote in the south of the country. Around 14 million Iraqis are eligible to vote for more than 8,000 candidates competing for 378 seats in provincial councils. Though this is the second time that the Iraqis are queuing up to vote since the fall of Saddam Hussein, enthusiasm is widely lacking. People are sceptical over the affairs of the state, and they complain that the government has not been able to deliver. Lack of basic amenities and soaring unemployment, coupled with an eroding infrastructure, is what irks the people who say that the fruits of overthrowing the dictatorship are yet to be realised. The government, however, claims that Iraq is now a better place to live in and the security forces have been largely successful in eradicating the remnants of Al Qaeda — and the like. Likewise, it boasts of its sovereignty as it has been able to send the foreign troops packing, and boosted its own security edifice, which includes the police and the armed forces.

Notwithstanding the successes that the new dispensation had achieved in the last couple of years — in terms of nation-building and fighting terror, it has not yet been able to beat parochial tendencies. That is why Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s call that Iraqis should come out in droves to cast their ballot is significant. He rightly says, “all those who are afraid for the future of Iraq and afraid of a return of violence and dictatorship should fight it out by casting ballots.” This vote will, indeed, come to test not only the resilience of the Iraqis but also cast a verdict on the future political stability of the nation — a decade after it overthrew a dictator and a year after US troops pulled out. Whatever may the outcome of poll, it’s time to magnify the task of creating a pluralistic society in Iraq.

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