Election Results in Iraq Reflect the Diversity of Its People and Offer Hope to Arabs Everywhere Despite Low Turnout
A diverse coalition led by a prominent cleric came out on top in an election that was nearly entirely free from violence. As an organization that tries to counter violent extremism and promote democracy, The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) congratulates Iraq on a peaceful election.
In another sign of major progress for a nation plagued by so much conflict in recent decades, this was the first election in which the dominant issue was not security. Rather, voters focused more on economic and governance issues. In a welcome sign that sectarian and ethnic divisions may be decreasing in intensity, the bloc that came out on top was led by a prominent religious cleric and consisted of many adherents from both of Iraq’s two main Islamic sects as well as communists, businesspeople, secularists, and community activists, an extraordinary coalition that has united people from many different backgrounds. The bloc won voters over on promises to fight for more ethical governance, to help the impoverished, and to build hospitals and schools. Such a departure from sectarianism in voting behavior was previously unheard of in Iraq. ARDD applauds Iraqi voters and political parties for focusing on issues and coming together despite differences in background and creed.
ARDD strongly believes that, much like in the spirit of the Arab Renaissance, civic engagement can be most successful when people of different beliefs and backgrounds come come together to work for economic, social, and legal justice, which is exactly what seems to have happened in Iraq during its election. ARDD hopes these efforts to pursue a broad conception of justice are successful, as such efforts have been at the heart of ARDD’s work for an entire decade.
Unfortunately, turnout was far lower than in previous Iraqi elections, the lowest since the nation’s first modern democratic elections in 2005. This suggests that many Iraqis are losing confidence in both Iraq’s fledging democratic system and its establishment political parties while also being just simply exhausted by so much fighting. Potential voters who decided not to vote specifically cited frustrations that the ruling parties were not able to do more on creating jobs and growing the economy, reforming government, and improving infrastructure. Others who sat this election out voiced a mistrust of the politicians in power and a lack of belief that anything could change. They felt leaders had enriched themselves at the expense of the people. Some voters who risked life and limb in previous, more dangerous elections had lost hope, even as they conceded security had improved. Young people went door-to-door, spouses pressured husbands, but many simply did not want to vote.
ARDD has always maintained that civil engagement and participation are essential if Arab civilization is to renew itself, and recently held a two-day conference in Amman on this theme: “Arab Renaissance: Renewal of the Civilizational Message.” In its tens years of working for development, democracy, and advancing justice for all members of society, ARDD has continually stressed the centrality of engagement and participation of the people themselves in making much needed progress a reality instead of a dream.
If the security situation continues to stabilize and the winning coalition is able to deliver improvements for Iraq’s people along the lines of economic, social, and legal justice it campaigned on, the disillusionment and weariness of so many Iraqis who did not participate may yet still transform into hope and energy and Iraq may still have a brighter future in store for it. Such hope and energy are what ARDD works hard in its programming to cultivate, especially among youth, refugees, and women.
Despite the low turnout, Iraq’s elections prove that there is reason for Iraqis and Arabs in general keep hope alive and to be the agents of the very change they wish to see in their lives.