Housing Initiative Part of Election Strategy?

By Omar al-Jaffa for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In Iraq, the early election media campaign has taken various forms. Notably, the government has started giving away residential land in return for votes.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, writer and political analyst Safa Khalaf described the “National Initiative for Housing,” which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki launched, as being consistent with the mind-set of political “gratuities.”

It seems that the election campaign for the next Iraqi Council of Representatives, which will be held no later than April 30, 2014, has started early. This time, some political blocs are using a wide array of enticements to earn citizens’ votes.

Maliki was the first to start this campaign by declaring the distribution of 420 plots of land in Al-Rashid as part of an initiative called the “National Initiative for Housing.” But Maliki’s opponents considered the move to be a signal that his bloc’s electoral campaign has started.

They recalled what he said at a famous news conference in 2009, when he opposed the distribution of land to citizens: “To be able to apply [a land distribution policy], we would have to take land from neighboring countries, because Iraq’s land is not big enough.”

Khalaf said, “When the government gets defeated by its citizens, it begins exploiting [the people’s] rights and returning [those rights] as gifts. The state has used that method in past decades and now, the new rule is doing the same thing by buying electoral votes.”

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