As Iraqis cast their votes on April 30 in the fourth election that took place since coalition forces invaded Iraq in 2003, Iraqi people inside and outside Iraq wonder and ponder the concept of “change” and its true meaning to the ever evolving untreated Iraqi trauma.
More than 280 political entities and 9,000 candidates are contesting for 328 seats in parliament, yet none of them had put forward a political platform or demonstrated any campaign agenda to address the country’s major concerns such as; security, economic prosperity or national conciliation.
Flashy, over-the-top campaign banners are crowded all over Iraq, combined with flashy and audacious slogans such as “together we build Iraq.” These huge posters of old and new candidates ironically happen to be in either dirty broken roads or the rubble of falling buildings. “Together, we defeat terrorism”, is one of the Prime Minister al-Maliki’s Shiite State of Law Coalition’s lousy campaign slogans, yet under his rule al Qaeda factions from ISIS is thriving after it found severely polarized Iraq is a safe heaven.
Backed by Iran, al-Maliki took office in 2006 monopolizing power and aggravating sectarian divide. He has succeeded in seizing the security and intelligence services under his control, replacing military commanders with people loyal to him, and influencing the judicial system, however, he has failed Iraq and brought it to sever structural crisis establishing corrupt and dysfunctional government with centralized power that fights over the war spoils, unwilling to put the nation’s interest over its sectarian and tribal divisions. Casting blame on his rivals and misleadingly relating weak government and bad public services to Saddamists and Baathists of the earlier century is all he needed to remain in office for 8 years.
Assuming ownership of the country after the US occupation, the Shiite government has treated the Sunni citizens as second-class. It is turning a blind eye to the escalating violence and the ongoing horrendous battles in Falluja whose population is the victim of a sectarian government. A population that is being traumatized daily and marginalized while al-Qaeda elements control the neighborhoods of city of Fallujah. Approximately 1,000 civilians are killed each month with no media attention to the crisis of Fallujah, hundreds of thousands of families are being displaced and face famine and diseases, all due to the siege and war carried out by the very government against its own people in the western parts of the country.
Moreover, al-Maliki failed to represent himself as an egalitarian leader; instead he represents himself as a strong Shiite leader who can defeat opponents and keep Sunnis at bay. Since eruption of the Syrian conflict al-Maliki has been part of the conflict when he took sides and decided to continue supplying the Assad regime with weapons and fighters.
Despite that the vote can be considered crucial to the fragile democracy process in the country, it cannot bring solutions to the ongoing socio-political crises, much less to change the ailing political structure of Iraq or preserve equal citizenship to the fragmented population. Rather, this election is more representative of the rifts among Iraqi sectors than the democracy process. Sunni voters have no other choice but trust their candidates who can potentially serve their cause. Kurds are not concerned as long as they have their independence. And most Shiite voters defer to the Najaf Hawza (religious school) to direct their votes. Yet, Iraqi dreams of a stable prosperous Iraq may not come true any sooner as long as they keep electing the same faces who shed more Iraqi blood instead of shedding effort to mend the country.
YaLa Young Leaders