China wishes all factions to strengthen solidarity and advance political process
People celebrate on a street in Baghdad on Monday after preliminary results of Iraq's parliamentary elections were announced. (HADI MIZBAN / AP)
As apathy resulted in a low voter turnout in Iraq's parliamentary elections, the incoming leaders should focus on building on the gains achieved by the past government to alleviate the sufferings of Iraqis moving forward, analysts said.
The elections, held on Sunday with a turnout of 41 percent and initially scheduled for 2022, were a response to the protests that broke out in October 2019 denouncing corruption and poor governance. More than 25 million people were eligible to vote in the elections.
During Sunday's polls, 3,249 candidates competed individually and within 167 parties and coalitions to win 329 seats in the upcoming Parliament.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that China welcomed the smooth electoral process.
China hopes Iraqi factions will take this vote as an opportunity to further strengthen solidarity and advance domestic political agenda, he said, adding that China also wishes Iraq to achieve enduring peace and stability as well as prosperity and development.
Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the Sadrist Movement, won nearly 70 seats in Baghdad and other southern provinces, while the State of Law Coalition, headed by former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, secured 35 seats, according to the official announcement.
Further, the initial results also showed that the al-Fateh Coalition (Conquest), which includes some Shiite militias of Hashd al-Shaabi, garnered about 14 seats. The Imtidad Movement, whose members were part of the 2019 massive protests, won about nine seats, mainly in the southern province of Dhi Qar.
The political alliance known as Taqaddum, or Progress, headed by outgoing Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, won about 40 seats in Baghdad and other Sunni provinces.
Moreover, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, won most seats of the Kurdish parties with about 32 seats, mainly in Erbil and Duhok.
Hassan Abdilah, director at JSSOR, a nongovernmental youth organization in Dhi Qar, said the results were "not expected and wanted by the Iraqi youth".
Abdilah lauded the Independent High Electoral Commission, Iraq's electoral commission, for doing "a great work", including the United Nations, NGOs, the government, which "invested much power and deployed tens of thousands of troops" and other election observers, in facilitating the smooth process of the elections.
"There are many firsts in these elections. First of all, this is the first time when early elections are taking place given the protesters' demand in 2019. Secondly, there is a new reformed electoral law in place, which divides the country in many smaller constituencies which has resulted in an increase in the number of constituencies from 18 to 83," said Manjari Singh, an associate fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi.
Abdilah said his organization hopes the next government can create more jobs for the youth, especially with new graduates joining the labor force, and work on the country's education system.
"Above all, fighting corruption because with corruption, nothing from the above demands can be achieved," Abdilah said.
Amjed Rasheed, a senior researcher at Open Think Tank, an Iraqi nonprofit group, said moving forward, whoever leads next should sustain outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's progress in depoliticizing the judiciary and support his anti-corruption policies.
Rasheed said there were vital steps that have not been taken to achieve genuine decentralization, such as having a second chamber beside the Council of Representatives, resolving oil-related issues, the Kurdish forces' salaries and solving the disputed areas between the Kurdish region and the center, among other issues.
"Supporting decentralization will decrease ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) threats, which has been capitalizing on the Shia-dominated government and its sectarian policies against the Sunnis in the country. Decentralization will also ease the governmental processes, and achieve a fair share of the budget," Rasheed said.
Singh said being able to play a mediation role has been the biggest achievement by the Kadhimi government, citing the balance of US and Iranian interests in his country and for being able "to bring Saudis and Iranians on the same table".
Zhao Jia in Beijing contributed to this story.
HONG KONG NEWS