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The biggest loser in the Iraqi election could be Iran

The biggest loser in the Iraqi election could be …

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On Sunday, Iraq held its fifth national election since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, with the 329 seats of the national parliament at stake. While the final results are not yet to be announced, the biggest losers appear to be pro-Iranian militant groups, who have already said they oppose the result and have issued veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence.

Another loser of the Election is the battered democracy of Iraq itself. Around 60 percent of those eligible to vote believed they had been manipulated and stayed away from the polls. That didn’t stop the government and election observers from promoting the election as a success – it went relatively smoothly, there were no incidents of violence, and most voters had easy access to polling stations. Electronic voting cards and biometric registration cards were launched with the promise of eradicating the kind of fraud that undermined the last elections in 2018 To submit hours after the polls closed, what would have been Monday evening. Instead, only 10 provinces’ results were released on Monday, while Baghdad and eight other provinces are still infiltrating. When the Election Commission published the first results online, its website crashed as Iraqis rushed to see the results. A delay in electronic vote counting resulted in some boxes having to be counted manually without external monitors, which further undermined Iraqi confidence.

On Sunday, Iraq held its fifth national election since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003 held, with the 329 seats of the national parliament at stake. While the final results are not yet to be announced, the biggest losers appear to be pro-Iranian militant groups, who have already said they oppose the result and have issued veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence.

Another loser of the Election is the battered democracy of Iraq itself. Around 60 percent of those eligible to vote believed they had been manipulated and stayed away from the polls. That didn’t stop the government and election observers from promoting the election as a success – it went relatively smoothly, there were no incidents of violence, and most voters had easy access to polling stations. Electronic voting cards and biometric registration cards were launched with the promise of eradicating the kind of fraud that undermined the last elections in 2018 To submit hours after the polls closed, what would have been Monday evening. Instead, only 10 provinces’ results were released on Monday, while Baghdad and eight other provinces are still infiltrating. When the Election Commission published the first results online, its website crashed as Iraqis rushed to see the results. A delay in the electronic vote counting resulted in some boxes having to be counted manually without external monitors, further undermining Iraqi confidence.

The mood remains tense. Rumors that Iran and its proxies were manipulating the results were fueled by news that Esmail Qaani, commander of the Quds force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Tehran’s superior for Iraq, had arrived in Baghdad. Iran has every reason to be dissatisfied with the poor performance of its deputies in the elections. In Iraq, important pro-Iranian figures have described the elections as illegitimate. Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Fatah coalition, which had likely lost several parliamentary seats, threatened to reject the results. Prominent militia leader Abu Ali al-Askari, also known as Hussein Mounes and leader of the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah, did not threaten the Independent High Electoral Commission with violence. Kataib Hezbollah could not win a single seat in parliament.

Until the final results, the strongest political force in the next parliament will be the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Sadr bloc is expected to have won at least 73 seats in parliament double-digit increase in seats. As the head of the party with the most seats, Sadr will name who will form the next government – but in the absence of a majority, he will have to form a coalition. Sadr claimed victory after the first results were announced on Monday and delivered a televised address focusing on reforms and the fight against corruption. He said his party’s victory was “a victory over the militia”. In a signal to the United States and other powers, he also said that foreign embassies are welcome to operate in Iraq as long as they do not interfere in its internal affairs. In another important signal, he suggested curbing the militias. “The weapons will from now on be restricted to the sole state control,” he said. This consolidation of the power of the Iraqi government could lead to violent clashes, especially if the militias see their influence waning.

Since some militias are already suggesting that they will not accept the election results, the further path of the country could be determined by it, like this Iraqi security forces and other political parties respond to such threats of post-election violence. Failure to limit the militias’ ability to strike would undermine not only the electoral process, but also the security infrastructure and governance of Iraq.

While the coming days and weeks will be tense for the militias, the question is who will come next Iraqi government forms the focus of the country’s orientation. The wrangling of different groups continues behind closed doors as different factions try to safeguard their interests. Sadr is expected to form a coalition with the Kurdish parliamentary bloc and Taqaddum, the largest Arab-Sunni party in parliament, led by the current parliamentary speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi. Together, these three groups are unlikely to control the majority of the seats, so other partners will be needed.

A major result of this election is the emergence of a class of independent candidates who have won seats in parliament by voting directly to the Iraqis applied what was made possible by reforms of the electoral law. The Imtidad movement – led by Alaa al-Rikabi, a pharmacist who gained prominence during the October 2019 protests – appears to have secured 10 seats. She will have to decide whether to join the ruling coalition – and risk being spoiled by the political process – or remain pure but powerless as a vocal part of the opposition.

Shouldn’t Sadr and his future parliamentary allies be looking for a new one Prime ministers agree, the consensus candidate could be the current Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who has a good relationship with Sadr, Halbousi and the Kurds. Should the coalition talks stall and drag on for months, this would be the likely scenario.

The new coalition has two other key positions to fill: the Iraqi President and the Speaker of Parliament. Halbousi is said to remain spokesman while the Kurds have to overcome their own internal divisions in order to elect a presidential candidate who will then be supported by the majority of the coalition in parliament. This split between Iraq’s main ethnic and religious groups not only reflects the three main members of the likely coalition, but was an informal arrangement – in contrast to the institutionalized system of sectarian power-sharing in Lebanon. A Shiite becomes prime minister, a Sunni Arab heads parliament and a Kurd takes over the presidency. But it is precisely this kind of horse influence that annoys many Iraqi voters in their current political system, where power rarely leads to better services or better handling of Iraq’s many crises. Furthermore, this gross ethnic and sectarian divide among Iraq’s political elites alienates secular and nationalist Iraqis.

There are now three pressing needs for Iraq. First, the Independent High Electoral Commission must promptly announce the final election results and maintain transparency about how the ballot papers have been counted. Second, Sadr should make clear his intentions to form a coalition and appoint the next prime minister. Third, the Iraqi security forces must be vigilant and not allow acts of violence against the electoral commission, candidates or activists that could be targeted by militia fighters trying to maintain the power they failed to gain in the elections.

Mina Al-Oraibi is a columnist for Foreign Policy and editor-in-chief of the National. Twitter: @AlOraibi

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