Messages given in the elections in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan
People in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan (Bashur) went to the polls three days ago. It is necessary to evaluate the messages that the people wanted to give in the elections, considering the low turnout and loss of votes of the Kurdish parties.
Early general elections were held in Iraq and Southern Kurdistan (Bashur) on October 10. This was the first snap general election held in Iraq since the 2003 election following the eradication of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.
The main reason for holding early general elections was the mass popular protests which started in October 2019 and continued uninterruptedly for about a year in the Shiite cities of Najaf, Karbala, Zikkar, Missan, Mussena, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah and other cities in the south of Iraq, especially in Baghdad. During these demonstrations, the public criticized the lack of services and put forward many demands such as eliminating the disparities between regions, ending unemployment, fighting corruption effectively, prosecuting corrupt officials, holding early general elections, and disallowing existing parties to participate in elections. At the top of their demands was the resignation of the current government.
About two months after the demonstrations, the then Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi government was only formed about five months later. The Kadhimi government also made many promises, the most important of which was to hold early general elections, which indeed took place, yet it was not too early since the demonstrators demanded the elections to be held "right now".
Moreover, the demonstrators did not want any of the existing parties to participate in the elections. Still, all of these parties participated in the elections.
POLLS WERE THERE BUT…
On October 10, citizens across Southern Kurdistan and Iraq were called to the polls. The elections have taken place and unofficial results have been announced. Almost every party has declared its victory.
However, when we look at both the low turnout and the number of votes received by the parties in the elections, it becomes clear that this is not the case.
Immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, the first elections in Iraq were held on December 15, 2005. The election turnout was 59 percent. The next elections were held on March 7, 2010 with a 62.4 percent turnout. In the third election held on April 30, 2014, the turnout dropped to 60 percent. The turnout in the fourth elections, held on May 12, 2018, decreased considerably to 44.5 percent. The turnout in the elections held on October 10, three days ago, was around 41 percent, according to an official announcement.
This was the lowest turnout in Iraqi history to date. Everyone agrees on that. Moreover, the public does not trust the Iraqi Independent Supreme Election Board, which is the official institution of the state.
On the other hand, at least 10 percent of the voters who went to the polls is believed to have stamped more than once, rendering their votes invalid. If these are excluded from the turnout rate and even if the official statement of the state is accepted as true, the turnout in the elections does not exceed 31 percent.
The political message of this is very clear. 70 percent of the people say that they do not trust these parties and that they do not want to go to the polls for these parties. Some of those who went to the polls cast invalid votes.
About 170 parties, 10 lists, 21 alliances and a few undeclared alliances took part in the elections in Iraq. 3,249 candidates from these parties, lists, alliances and coalitions participated in the elections to become members of the parliament. If considered mathematically, it turns out that those who voted in the elections support the candidates of their parties, lists and alliances. Therefore, it seems that no one who is not close to parties, alliances and lists actually went to the polls and voted.
This explains the loss of votes of the parties. For instance, the Sariun list of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr which came first in the previous elections throughout Iraq lost about 8 seats in this election. Furthermore, the former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and the National Wisdom Movement lost many of its votes. The Wisdom movement led by Ammar al-Hakim and the Nasr list of Haider al-Abadi had won about 20 seats in the previous elections. However, the two participated in this election as an alliance, and the number of their seats is not more than 20.
ELECTION FIASCO OF BASHUR PARTIES
The most obvious loss of votes can be seen in the parties in Southern Kurdistan.
The KDP, which had received 724,727 votes in the previous elections, won 420,430 votes in the last election. In this case, 304 297 votes were lost. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had received 364,638 votes in the previous election while it received 150,155 votes in the last election, losing 214,483 votes. The New Generation Movement, which had received 152,645 votes in the previous elections, won 135,140 votes in the last elections. The Gorran Movement won 199,661 votes in the last elections and only 2,230 votes in the last one, losing 177,311 votes. The Islamic Unity Party, which had taken 98,019 votes in the previous elections, seems to be the only party that has increased its votes with 105,110 votes.
This loss of votes and the low turnout in the elections reveal how much the voters trust the political parties. Although the KDP lost nearly half of its votes, it has increased the number of parliamentarians with tricks and games, and it is declaring it as an election victory.
The total number of votes received by all Southern Kurdistan parties in the last Iraqi general elections is around 810,000. The KDP's vote is about 300,000. The HDP's votes across Turkey and Northern Kurdistan (Bakur) are around 6 million. The votes the HDP received in Amed province alone are nearly twice the votes the KDP received in Bashur and Iraq in total. The HDP received around 550,000 votes in the city of Amed. However, the KDP claims that it has the right to speak on behalf of all Kurds. In fact, the KDP cannot even speak on behalf of Bashur, let alone all Kurds.
Although some parties have increased the number of their seats in Bashur, all parties have lost in the elections. For instance, although the New Generation Movement's votes decreased by around 18 thousand, the number of its seats doubled.
The most obvious example of losing votes is the Gorran Movement. The votes it received are not enough to gain a single seat. The Gorran Movement, which showed up with a suggestion of change in the 2014 elections, obtained 5 seats in the Iraqi Parliament in the 2018 elections. However, the public objected to its participation in the regional administration and government by agreeing with the KDP after the regional elections. The voters punished the Gorran Movement in the last elections. Thus, the Gorran Movement, which was identified with what Sami Abdurrahman had represented in 1982, became a thing of the past.
In fact, the Gorran Movement was established as a wave breaker. Despite this, Newşirvan Mustafa claimed to introduce changes in political life as long as he was active in politics. However, this line changed after his death. That's why the people protested the Gorran Movement in the last elections.
Another important point is that more than 300,000 voters who previously voted for the KDP changed their mind and declared that they were clearly uncomfortable with the Turkish invasion and the policies that the KDP adopted together with the invaders. However, it is not yet known what the KDP will do to confront this fact.
HOW TO EVALUTE THE PEOPLE’S MESSAGE?
If we want to evaluate the election results in Southern Kurdistan and Iraq, we can argue that the people said, "We don't want you, you can't rule us, that's why we don't vote for you". I think it is necessary to look at it from this point of view and adopt an approach accordingly. Because if the political parties do not evaluate this message in a proper way, they will face what happened to Saddam twenty years ago. Saddam Hussein did not believe that anyone or any power could defeat him and thought that he would always remain in power.
Another important conclusion to be drawn from these election results is that the people were critical to the kind of democracy promoted by the US and Europe. Because the United States and the international coalition are the only responsible actors for Iraq's fragmented situation.
HOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENT?
The election results have been announced. Although the KDP lost the most votes, it has declared itself the winner of the elections. How interesting!
After the previous election, since the KDP considered itself to have received the most votes and more seats, it claimed that the Iraqi Presidency was their right, despite the agreement of Mam Jalal and Masoud Barzani. Thus, the KDP nominated Fuat Hussein against Barham Salih. It didn't win, yet it promoted its candidate. After the last elections, the KDP will make the same claim. How the PUK will respond to this will be a serious issue.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER IN IRAQ?
There are a few questions that need to be answered after the elections. The first question is who the next president will be, which seems to be a problem between the KDP and the PUK. Another question is who the speaker of the parliament and the prime minister will be. It is not possible to form a government and to nominate a prime minister without the consensus of all powers in Iraq. Furthermore, neither a prime minister nor a president can be appointed without the tacit agreement of Iran and the United States. Therefore, it is necessary to know that even if it remains as a problem among the Kurds - and it seems that it will - a politician who is not approved by the US and Iran has no chance of becoming president. Therefore, it is necessary to realize that serious problems will keep Iraq busy after the elections and that it is not so easy to resolve them without international forces.
Elections were held and all political parties lost votes. The parties know that even if they did not lose votes and had the chance to be in power alone, they could not come to power without the US and Iran. It is necessary to watch and see what will become of Iraq and what kind of administration will be formed after the elections, because it is necessary to understand that even those who claim to have won the elections in Iraq cannot do anything. That's what it's like to be a colony.