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PM’s Call for Elections Sparks Unprecedented Political Race in Iraq

PM’s Call for Elections Sparks Unprecedented Political Race in Iraq

Sunday, 2 August, 2020 - 06:15
An Iraqi woman shows her ink-stained finger before a national flag after having cast her vote in the parliamentary election, in the capital Baghdad's Karrada district. (AFP)

Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for general elections to be held on June 6, 2021, parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi called for holding “earlier” elections.

Both calls appear “unprecedented” constitutionally and politically.

Kadhimi made true on his electoral pledge to hold polls in compliance with the 2019 protest movement demands. He took everyone by surprise when he set the date of the elections, even though parliament has yet to complete the electoral law and other relevant regulations, such as determining electoral districts.

Moreover, Iraq is confronted with numerous challenges, such as the coronavirus outbreak and a stifling economic crisis sparked by the collapse in oil prices.

While Kadhimi’s call is seen as justified by the protesters, several observers and experts suspect that some political powers will seek to abort the polls, despite their declared statements of support.

The PM has effectively thrown the ball in parliament’s court. With the elections set, the parliament is, according to the constitution, obligated to dissolve itself. Halbousi, by calling for “earlier” elections, has in turn thrown the court in everyone’s court, including the government, the premier and political blocs and their leaders.

The speaker has called for holding an open emergency session for the legislature to set the procedures to hold the elections.

“Successive government have not implemented their agendas, which has prompted the continuation of popular protests,” he remarked in declaring his call for “earlier” elections. “Everyone must assume their responsibilities before the people.”

A member of Halbousi’s parliamentary bloc, MP Yehya Ghazi, stated that some arrangements needed to be complete before heading to polls.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he highlighted legal aspects of the preparations and the need to implement article 64 of the constitution that calls for dissolving the parliament, which is seen as a main precursor to staging the elections.

The parliament must be dissolved two months before the elections and such a move requires an agreement among the political blocs, he explained.

Former member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, Miqdad Sharifi said that it appears that Kadhimi and Halbousi are in a form of “competition” over the elections.

He explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that the PM was being pressured by political forces to hold the polls, while the blocs that represent these forces at parliament are holding back from approving the electoral law.

This consequently is an “embarrassment” to the premier, he added.

Furthermore, Sharifi said it was not feasible to hold the elections in June 2021 given the stifling high temperatures in Iraq at the time which would discourage voters from heading out to polls stations.

“It appears to me that setting such a date was mainly aimed at pressuring blocs to approve the electoral law and not at actually holding the polls,” he speculated.

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