Sunday, September 13, 2009

Iraqi Elections: Will Iraqis Change Their Way?

By Ali Rawaf
Despite the corruption and the tumultuousness of its process, many Iraqis look forward for the parliamentary elections at the end of this year. After all, the practice of voting is a bit new to Iraqis. It is different than the way Iraqis used to vote. We had only one party and one candidate. The only choices on the piece of paper voters were given were “Na’am” and “La,” Arabic for “yes” and “no.”

Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission had recently published a spread sheet with the names of political parties and individuals running for the parliamentary elections. Before I read the names of the parties, I scrolled down the screen to see how many parties and individuals are running. There are a number of 287 parties and individuals in the race so far. Bear in mind that the document was titled, “Political Entities Approved for Parliamentary Elections as of September the 12th.”

As you’d imagine, it is would be very difficult to have 287 entities on the ballot therefore, the parties will form “political lists,” a groups of parties that decide to be in one entity during the elections. Even though we vote for these lists, we don’t have a say as to who gets what. For a few days after the elections, the winning parties have long battles to decide which member gets which position.

Since Iraq has many of its citizens spread all over the world, we have the opportunity to vote in our embassies and some other designated voting stations such as one in Michigan and California.

Iraqis dip their fingers in ink that cannot be removed for longer than a day to prevent multiple voting attempts.

In the last parliamentary elections, Iraqis gave uneducated votes. Violence and religious interference in the campaign contributed a lot to the fact that people voted on sectarian basis rather than political programs. “Rabu’na,” or “our people,” many answered me when I asked them for whom they were giving their votes. While votes soared for sectarian and ethnic groups, secular and nationalist parties didn’t do so well.

I hope that Iraqis will realize the value of their votes and that a candidate’s religious or ethnic background will not be the scale on which candidates’ qualifications are measured. I also hope that Iraqi take the time to study about the political entities and candidates before making the choice in the voting booth.

*To learn more about the Iraqi elections, their procedure, and the campaign, please visit the website of the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission.