The fourth Iraqi parliamentary elections of 2018 are being held today , which reflect continuity and change at the same time, in a particularly fragmented atmosphere. These elections are held in light of the devastation caused by the conflict with ISIS and serious divisions within the ruling Shi’ite party. As a result, the elections that took place today will be a test of the country’s mood in the wake of the turbulent recent years. Iraqi voters are heading to the polls to formulate the final answer to a question that will determine the future of the country at a pivotal moment in its modern history: Will voters choose to turn Iraq into a model of IRGC rule, or would they choose to establish a state of an Iraqi identity?
Before the opening of polling stations to Iraqi voters, the US Embassy in Baghdad warned of the possibility of attacks on polling stations across Iraq. The embassy said in a statement on its website that it had received information about the possibility of terrorist attacks on polling stations, especially in the Ghazaliya neighborhood west of the capital Baghdad, and indicated that it had decided to reduce the movement of staff in this area temporarily. For its part, the Center for Iraqi security information called not believe what it described rumors and lies launched by some parties regarding the security situation during the voting process. The Center said in a statement that the security forces ready to secure elections and ensure the arrival of all voters to polling stations easily and smoothly and exercise their democratic right , , and continue to protect polling stations and centers even after the end of the polling period to conduct counting and sorting.
With the silence of the election yesterday, the propaganda campaigns were closed, to begin the stage of speculation about the results of the vote. And almost centers of research and the media agreed on the progress of the coalition « al-Nasir», led by Prime Minister Haider Abadi over the rest of the political blocs by a simple margin of 35 – 45 seats. Followed by close results ranging from 25 – 35 seats, coalitions «Saroon / Moqtada al – Sadr», «Fath / Hadi Amiri», «Dawlat al-Qanoon / Nuri al – Maliki», «al-Wataniya/ Iyad Allawi». Then the coalitions come of “al-Qarar/ Osama Najafi” and “Democratic Party / Massoud Barzani,” ranging between 10-20 seats. And, to a lesser extent, forces such as «al-Hikmah / Ammar al-Hakim», «the Kurdistan Alliance / Kosrat Rasool», « al=Adalah / Barham Saleh», and other forces such as «civil coalition», « al-Jeel al-Jadeed- new generation», «Tamden», and “Change -alTaghier”, less than 10 seats. Although this map seems stable with slight differences in most political forces, the margin of surprises is not excluded, and sometimes refers to the progress of Abbadi to 60 seats.
The progress of the list of Abadi in the Iraqi elections on other electoral lists is probably due his internal and external achievements since the arrival of the post of prime minister in 2014, Iran has lost much of its investment in the Iraqi Shiite environment, as an internal Iraqi feeling began to develop among a broad Shiite segment that Iraq can not become a “back garden” of Iran. The currents of political Islam associated with Iran have been highly questioned by social incubators that have been a political base for it in the past. This internal Iraqi feeling is growing as Iran’s isolation deepens following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the consequent economic repercussions that complicate Iran’s mission in sustaining the momentum of its foreign operations in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has tried to pursue a policy of balance between the United States and Iran over the past four years and has repeatedly declared that Iraq will not become the scene of proxy wars between the two sides.
Tehran’s desire to determine the results of the Iraqi elections is always clear, but it is unclear how intense this intervention will be this time. Given the many pressures Iran is facing – from the Israeli strikes [on its positions] in Syria to the United States abandoning the nuclear agreement – the attention of the regime may be so distracted that it may not pay full attention to the vote in Iraq. Instead, it can be deliberately negative, by relying on its local agents in various institutions to gain influence in Baghdad while trying to convince the Europeans that it is necessary to continue to deal with Iran. But Tehran is more likely to follow a direct approach by trying to play a spoiler role and insisting on the appointment of its preferred candidates for senior positions in the next Iraqi government. Although this path may jeopardize Iran’s international reputation, Tehran may consider that a neutral Iraq would pose a threat to the Islamic Republic if a war breaks out in the region.
The United States remains committed to a strong, neutral and democratic Iraq. If we put specific results aside, Washington has an interest in having the country to conduct fair elections leading to a comprehensive government. Iraqis, including members of the Popular Forces (alHashed al-Shaabi ) , know that US military support played a key role in their ability to defeat the “Islamic state.” Washington had to remind them of this fact as they advanced to the elections and should continue to do so – This could include long weeks of waiting for the final results and the formation of the next government. On a broader scale, US officials should continue to pay full attention to all these operations, because they will determine the course of Iraq over the next four years.
The Iraqi parliamentary elections are related to the choice of a prime minister as much as the election of members of parliament. This is appeared in a process of negotiations, bargains, and twist arms after elections , mainly within the Shiite house. There are several possible scenarios for what will come, depending on a number of variables: the number of votes received by individual leaders; Iran’s ability to persuade or pressure Shiite coalitions to form coalitions; and whether Kurdish groups will come together again to form the normal weighting factor; and any interferences of the United States may have to contribute – or not.
The parliamentary elections that take place – today – would turn into a major step on the path to consolidate Iraq’s position as a nation-state of significant influence, and therefore key elements of stability in the region, which suffers decades of chaos and turmoil and conflict. Demographically, natural resources, geopolitical location and, above all, the quality of human beings there, it is possible that Iraq has the potential to be a major player in regional politics in the region. Many researches are used to describe Iraq’s chances of redefining itself as a modern nation-state as the state that is trying to develop its own internal democratic process. At present, whoever is responsible for the formation of the next Iraqi government in Baghdad should be modest and calm, and distance himself, his government and his country from empty rhetoric and gleeful media , and focus on deep rooted policies that serve key issues of importance. The first goal of the future Iraqi government is to ensure that the democratic process in the country is safe and sound , quite apart from religious, sectarian, ideological or even political differences, all the Iraqi people have one interest in reaching that end. Therefore, the Iraqi elections will form an important transformation of the future of the country, and it is possible for its results and the different scenarios of coalitions that may be formed in the aftermath of the elections to determine whether Iraq is a fully independent state and adopt more forward-looking policies towards the East. Or whether Iran will continue to have the upper hand in its political decision.
Iraqi Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies