Targeted assassinations threatening the lives of civil society activists and candidates running in Iraq’s 2021 parliamentary elections, slated for October 10, have fueled fears that the early vote will be delayed until next year.
Ihab al-Wazni, who helped organize anti-government protests that swept Iraq in October 2019, was shot dead on Sunday outside his home in Karbala, a city located 100 km south of Baghdad.
Only a day later, another murder attempt sought to take out journalist Ahmed Hassan in the nearby city of Diwaniyah, located 180 km south of the capital.
In parallel, a female candidate from Baqubah province, situated northeast of Baghdad, also reported an attempt on her life.
The heightened risk of assassination has been directly linked to candidates increasingly pulling out from the October race.
For example, the Bayariq Al-Khair parliamentary bloc revealed on Wednesday that some of its candidates had withdrawn from the upcoming elections after receiving death threats.
“Some candidates of the Bayariq al-Khair bloc in Baghdad withdrew from the upcoming parliament elections after receiving death threats,” said Muhammad al-Khalidi, who heads the bloc.
Khalidi held relevant security authorities responsible for the safety of candidates.
“Security services are aware of what happened and have seen the messages that the candidates received,” he said.
Traditional political parties in Iraq are in dismay over the prospects of losing some of their power in parliament after the October poll, which is predicted to log a higher turnout rate compared to previous elections.
Civil society candidates, who represent anti-government protesters and movements, will be partaking in the elections and are likely to win over some of the seats formerly held by conventional politicians.
Threatened by this white-hot competition, weakened parties are likely to resort to carrying out a troubling campaign of assassinations to eliminate their rivals.
Although assassinations have been part of the Iraqi political scene for years now, this is the first time the killings are taking place away from western governorates, where Al-Qaeda and ISIS were typically behind eliminating those partaking in elections.