Positive outcomes after exposure of violations in Iraqi elections

Adnan Hussein

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Iraqis, or at least the majority of them, were not waiting for the temporary Iraqi electoral commission to say anything to be certain that there has been forgery in the May parliamentary elections. Many Iraqis were aware of this fraud long before the new commission realized it. This commission, which is made up of nine judges, was this time formed by the Supreme Judicial Council. The decision to form this commission was made by the parliament which term has ended.

This parliament had formed the previous electoral commission whose work is now suspended and had rejected all demands to include judges to guarantee integrity. The Iraqis know this fact about forgery because all past electoral processes sparked controversies, protests and allegations of manipulating the will of the electorate, whether through buying votes, promising a position in state offices, giving economic and social incentives to businessmen and clan elders, applying political or social pressure and by using violence along by consciously rigging the results of the election in favor of influential parties in order to maintain their dominance.

However, the powerful political class has always found a way to reach a settlement among each other to secure their benefits and interests. As a result, violations in the electoral process and the forging of results were overlooked.

Rigged game of the elite

The movement that called for boycotting elections was aware of this reality that infests each electoral process: manipulation and forgery. Those who called for boycotting the elections believed that there is no use going to vote centers since the results were fixed in advance.

Manipulating the results of the elections and forging its results were always the work of the dominant powers, which are usually the powers of political Islam, whether Sunni or Shiite. Those who carry out the rigging are the officials working at the electoral commission and its staff members, who are selected by the same powerful elite that control the work of the parliament, the government and the entire political process.

After the official acknowledgement of the massive irregularities in the elections, the new Iraqi parliament and the government that will be formed by it will not be able to revert to the quota system that was bedrock for the corruption

Adnan Hussein

The commission which is described in the constitution as independent never enjoyed independence, just like other "independent" bodies, which posts were distributed by the powerful parties in accordance with the sectarian and nationalist quota system. This same quota system has also been adopted in the distribution of civil, military and security positions, in a clear contrast to the constitution.

The re-counting and sorting done by the new temporary commission in centers and locations whose results have been challenged in a number of Iraqi provinces is expected to reveal more cases of manipulation of the election results. This can directly show the wrongdoings and achieve justice for those who won and who lost the May elections. The process is likely to show that some people have already won the election, but the votes of their voters had been unjustly and aggressively taken, in lieu of those who have lost and became winners by manipulation. Those who have “lost” by manipulation would be able to reclaim their votes and those who have “won” will lose the votes given to them unjustly.

Opportunity for major reform

There are mid-to-long term benefits of this re-counting and sorting and exposing of the manipulation process. The first is that the new parliament, which will convene after the completion of the current counting process and the announcement of the final real results, will find it necessary to reconsider the electoral commission, and will have to reform it in accordance with the stipulations of the constitution that it has to be an independent body that should be structured in a way that it is not under the influence of the dominant parties. This is supposed to be applied to other "independent" bodies that have been deprived of independence, neutrality and impartiality.

More importantly, officially admitting that manipulation of the electoral process and forgery will raise questions about the integrity of the electoral process as a whole, calling for a reassessment of the electoral law — the unfair electoral system (Sainte-Laguë) and the parties’ law. These are the main demands of the protest movement that began three years ago for political, administrative and economic rehabilitation. The current government and the former parliament have both failed at meeting these demands.

Challenging the credibility of the electoral process must include the credibility of the political process in action since 2003 and which is established on sectarian and nationalist quotas. This has great importance for the Iraqi national democratic forces which call for establishing a democratic secular civil government based on national identity and citizenship to replace the current governance which was established by the alliance of Islamist and nationalist parties. This governance did not only fail in providing an appropriate alternative to Saddam Hussein's regime, but it also increased armed sectarian and nationalist conflicts and worsened the phenomenon of administrative and financial corruption, thus weakening the foundations of the state and society, ruining the national economy and crippling socio-economic development much needed by Iraq to repair the effects of dictatorship and the disastrous wars of Saddam's regime.

After the official acknowledgement of the massive irregularities in the elections, the new Iraqi parliament and the government that will be formed by it will not be able to revert to the quota system that was bedrock for the corruption in the political and administrative sphere. Adopting this quota system would lead to the rise of a protest movement, bigger and stronger than it was in 2015. Among this movement’s results are the downfall of several important figures in the recent elections and the decline of others’ influence. This time, these groups will not dare challenge the popular will, like they did before, because they fear the serious consequences that can impact them and their influence in the future political process.

This article is also available in Arabic.


Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein

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