It has been said before. But this time it may well be true: Iraq’s next elections will be the most crucial in the country since 2003.
The last elections were held in 2014 and over the past three years, there have been major developments of all kinds in Iraq, including in politics and security. The long security crisis sparked by the extremist group known as the Islamic State has seen the creation of new political forces in the country, including the Shiite Muslim militias, formerly volunteers but now a formidable military force in their own right, as well as tribe-based militias.
At the same time the popularity of those who were prominent as part of Iraq’s business-as-usual, quota-driven political model has declined. The traditional Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish blocs, split along ethnic and sectarian lines, are not as popular with voters as they once were. There are also plenty of new divisions within them.
And most recently Iraqi politicians have been busy passing laws that could change the situation even more.
Over the last ten days, the Iraqi parliament has agreed on many points of a new law to regulate the provincial elections, which sees local councils and governors of Iraq’s various provinces elected. The elections were slated to be held in April of this year but were postponed due to the ongoing security crisis and the presence of the Islamic State, or IS, group in many areas. Now it seems they will be held on the same day as federal elections, in April 2018.
This will be the first time the two kinds of elections have been held together – usually there are two years between each kind of ballot. In the past provincial elections have been considered a good indicator of the popularity of various Iraqi political parties and blocs. Often politicians will correct their course and take different positions as a result of provincial voting, so that they may do better in federal elections.