Elections Iraq | 05 May 2023

Iraq: Church leaders consider possible election boycott

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In response to changes in electoral law introduced in March 2023, church leaders of various denominations in Iraq are threatening to call on their constituencies to boycott the elections scheduled for November 2023. The clergy say they may do this if the representation of Christians and the protection of their interests are not guaranteed.

According to an article published by FSSPX.NEWS on 6 April 2023: The new system will favor the major political parties (i.e., those representing Kurds and Shiites) at the expense of independent candidates; in addition, the seats traditionally allocated to ethnic and religious minorities – Christians have five in parliament – will be allocated by the major winning parties. The concern is that “the candidates end up no longer really representing the Christian communities of Iraq”. The Catholic and Orthodox bishops suggest, therefore, that the authorities draw up a list of Christian voters who can vote in the allocation of the five deputy seats to prevent election abuse. If the requests of their communities are not heard, the clergy warn that they have only two alternatives: “Either we will ask for the elimination of our five seats in order to prevent them from being occupied by deputies who do not represent us, or we will go as far as to call for an electoral boycott.”

World Watch Research analyst Henriette Kats further elaborates: “Christians in Iraq have long complained about the quota system, which they say effectively leads to seats allocated to Christian minorities being ‘hijacked’ by major political parties. For example, in the most recent parliamentary elections in October 2021, four out of five seats allocated to Christians went to the Babylon Movement - the political wing of a Christian militia formed as part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) - whose leader is PMU chief Rayan al-Kildani. Allegedly, al-Kildani was voted into parliament mainly by Shia votes because of his ties to Shia militias and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In this way, the Christian political voice has been completely undermined and politicized by powers that have little regard for the plight of Christians in Iraq. Iraqi Christians fear that the March 2023 amendments will facilitate the division of Christian seats in favor of Kurdish and Shiite political forces. Finally, it should be noted that these amendments also mean a return to the electoral law of 2018, thus completely eliminating one of the achievements of the widespread protest movement of 2019-2021, which gave independent candidates and grassroots movements a better chance of winning seats.”


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