Iraq's general elections are set to take place on May, 12, 2018. Photo: AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Disagreements between the Iraqi political parties on how to run the country’s general elections are intensifying. The Shiite-led Iraqi government is determined to go ahead with the elections as planned for May but some Sunnis have been seeking a delay.
The speaker of Iraqi parliament and his deputy met with heads of factions on Saturday but couldn’t reach a deal on the question of the election law. That is why this issue was deferred for next Thursday.
“The Kurds have no problems with holding the elections at the time determined by the constitution. But Sunni Arabs are asking for a 6-month postponement, and the Shiites want them to be held on time,” Shakhawan Abdullah, deputy head of KDP faction in Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw.
Abdullah also commented on the lack of unity among various Shiite factions.
“The problem is not only between the Shiites and Sunnis. Rather, the Shiites have internal problems; some of them were in favor of delaying the elections too, but they don’t want to be open about this because of reactions from the public,” he added.
According Article 56, Section 1 of the Iraqi constitution, Iraqi parliament term is for four years.
“The Shiites are afraid that the delaying of elections would become a phenomenon and be delayed for several years like in Lebanon. That is why elections are supposed to be held on time, although Sunni areas have not been rebuilt and most of their people have not returned home,” Bakhtiar Shaweis, an Iraqi MP with the PUK, told Rudaw.
Because much of the war against ISIS was fought in Sunni-majority areas, some have said security situations in their areas are not appropriate for elections now, so they should be delayed.
“Areas in the west and central Iraq have been destroyed because of the war on ISIS. Not everyone has returned home. Security situations in these places are not good yet. That is why we have asked for elections to be delayed by at least 6 months until situations in these places go back to normal,” Talal Zubaihi, who is Sunni and an MP with the Iraqia Faction, told Rudaw.
Shiite politicians, who dominate the current government, could put the matter of the timing of elections before a court.
“The Sunnis are determined on delaying the elections. But there is high possibility the government would turn to the federal court to hold elections on time, and taking this step will be to undermine the parliament,” Masoud Hayder, an MP from Gorran, told Rudaw.
More than 2.6 million Iraqis remain internally displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration’s December 2017 statistics. Displacement occurred in waves as areas were liberated from ISIS.
Tens of thousands of people then fled Tuz Khurmatu, Kirkuk, and Nineveh when Baghdad used Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries to control those disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by Erbil and Baghdad.
The Islamic Dawa party has been in power since the “new Iraq” in 2005. Three Iraqi prime ministers have come from Dawa.
The party has agreed to enter elections on two separate lists. Nouri al-Maliki, the secretary general of the Dawa party and vice president of Iraq, is heading the State of Law Coalition. Haider al-Abadi, head of Dawa party’s politburo and current prime minister, is heading the Nasir Coalition.
Members of Nasir initially include the Fatih Coalition established by Badr Organization leader Hadi al-Amiri. Fatih is comprised of a number of Hashd al-Shaabi groups, and the National Wisdom Movement (Al-Hikmah) led by Ammar al-Hakim. There are currently 22 parties in the coalition led by Abadi.
Fatih Coalition withdrew from Abadi's list citing "technical" problems on Monday.
“Resolving the issue of running on two separate lists led by Maliki and Abadi means the Shiites is serious about holding the elections. That is why they don’t want the process to be delayed,” said the PUK MP, Shaweis.
The agreement between Abadi and Hashd al-Shaabi members had angered Muqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric and leader of the Sadr Movement, who described the agreement as a return of “corrupt” officials to power.
Elections held on time benefit Abadi, but delayed elections could strengthen Erbil’s hand in negotiations with Baghdad.
“I think negotiations and an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad will be made after the elections and will be assigned to the next prime minister if elections are held on time. Abadi will however enter negotiations with Kurdistan if elections are delayed because the Kurdish card will help him win votes among the Shiites,” said the Gorran MP, Hayder.