(Ms.) Batool Kareem Hamdi, is the assistant coordinator in the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF). She works with different social movements and civil society organizations across Iraq promoting democracy and good governance. She organizes and conducts training for youth. Batool talks to Saccam on the current political situation in Iraq focusing on the forthcoming elections and moves by progressive political parties to boycott the election.
Saccam : What is the political and security situation in Iraq right now?
Batool :The general political and security situation in Iraq haven’t witnessed stability for a long time now. 2019 demonstrations revealed the real face of the governance in Iraq; as the government was not able to meet any of the demands the people wished for. There is still a rising percentage of corruption, injustice, fraud, and crime within the formation of the entire political body. Unfortunately, the presence of weaponry is still dominating the streets of Iraq, playing a major role and affecting the citizens’ everyday life. The politicians and the heads of the state have failed to bring a terminal ending to this phenomenon as most of them are afraid to point it out in their speeches or actions, on the other hand, some of the politicians are rooting and sustaining these practices for their own personal agenda. Killings, assassinations and bombing has become a natural side-effect in living under such political atmosphere. These disturbing conditions rattled the Iraqi citizens and imposed a lot of challenges on the civil society here in Iraq; as many of the activists and anyone who points an accusatory finger towards these violations and the people accountable for them got either assassinated or was forced to leave their homes, cities, or even the country.
Saccam: What are the main changes in Iraq in the aftermath of US invasion.
Batool: The US invasion of Iraq failed to bring any safety or security to the Iraqi atmosphere. After taking down the former Baath party and dismantling all military formations, the country was left hollow and vulnerable; which paved the way for foreign and internal conflicting forces to bring forth their grudges freely and openly on the streets. Furthermore, the new government that the US helped in its formation was not able to fill the gaps or chart a clean democratic course after the decades of dictatorship. To speak openly and candidly, it is very hard to trace any kind of positive impact resulting from the US invasion, as the country still suffers immensely and is still deeply wounded by the overlap of the constant clashes it’s subjected to.
Saccam: How did Iraqi people accept the changes took place with the regime change? Are people happy about the democracy restored in Iraq and how people get into the democratically governance in the country?
Batool: Although the positive changes resulting from the US invasion of Iraq are meager, people were happy to get rid of the dictatorship they have lived through for many insufferable decades. However, their joy was soon washed away by the wave of violence that swept the country and the rising sectarian civil wars that took its toll on people. Iraq at that time was devoid of security and the government was not able to pull itself together and get the state back in order. The democracy in Iraq today did not come naturally; it did not stem from the Iraqi will to break free from the past government and restore their freedom, rather this democracy was brought by and accompanied by the US invasion that was rejected by the public, therefore, many saw democracy as an agent of destruction to the country that would distort its values. Furthermore, the current democracy practiced is political corrupted one and not a social one.
Today, democracy is no more than a formality used by the government to mask their exploitation. People are suffering from exclusion and are alienated from the entire political process. The only form of democracy left in the country is the elections, however, even the elections are not being performed in an entirely democratic way and it holds a lot of flaws; votes are being bought and sold, people don’t have an ultimate freedom to run for the elections as they are either bought and won by other parties, or threatened by the armed groups and the loose weaponry, and even if they run for the elections, it is highly unlikely that they will reach the parliament due to the festering corruption in the process of the elections.
Saccam: Does Iraq practice multiparty system?
Batool:Although, the parliament is based on multiparty system. We do not see any variations each year; as the same parties are stilling dominating the political scene. And that is one of the many major factors that discouraged people to go for they elections
Saccam: How is the citizens’ participation in politics and the space available for Civil Society Organizations.
Batool:In 2019 the protestors who took to the streets demanded early elections on the condition of reforming the election law and system. However, these demands have not been fully achieved or met by the governments’ procedures or lack thereof.
Saccam: Who really do want to boycott the elections and why?
Batool:This round of election is the first after the 2019 demonstrations which helped people recognize and claim political responsibility and get more involved in the process. And although many of them opted for the boycott, however, this boycotting is not a mere abstention but rather a political movement and non-violent protest that aims at debunking the national and international legitimacy of the government and their mock-elections and eradicate all forms and shapes of the past governments and their arbitrary practices.
Today, the boycott that was called for by these national parties such as the Iraqi Communist Party, and others formed by the October demonstrators, unlike the previous years, is organized and structured. It is believed that this boycott is the statement of the people and an expression of their distrust and disdain with how the authorities are overlooking the public interests of people.
Saccam: What would be the consequences if a big majority boycott the elections?
Batool:In a statement posted by the Iraqi Communist Party, they pointed out and summarized the reasons for the boycott as follows:
01. The conditions to proceed with free and genuine elections are absent.
02. The election law is unfair and the High Commission for the elections is not independent.
03. The election law enshrines quotas, regionalism, and the rule of the corrupt, and allows armed parties with armed arms to run for office.
04. Implementing the parties’ law albeit knowing the sources of party financing and the survival of the corrupt and the killers of the October uprising within the electoral competition.
The elections were limited exclusively among the powerful forces, and there is no chance for the forces calling for change nor for the emerging youth parties.
Saccam: What the international community could do to support Iraq?
Batool: Throughout the years, we have had so much help from the international communities in solidarity with the local Iraqi community in many ways. We hope that the international communities who are keen on aiding the Iraqis would hear ours voices. What Iraq needs the most in these critical times is candid publicity that portrays the political, financial, and social scenes in Iraq. As well as solidity and advocacy initiatives that would support the Iraqi cause.