By John Lee.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, United Nations envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov has been sharply critical of Iraqi politicians and their campaigning platforms.
Mladenov has remarked that not enough Iraqi politicians are campaigning on issues of public concern, such as the supply of clean drinking water, a reliable electricity supply and reducing corruption. Recent years have seen protests in Iraq concerning all of these issues.
Instead Mladenov paints a disturbing picture which suggests Iraq's elections may end up as divisive as those which occurred in 2005, when Sunnis boycotted the elections and many parties coalesced around sectarian identity:
"Campaigning will be highly divisive. Everyone is ratcheting it up to the maximum, and you could see this even before officially the campaign started. I would hope that it would be more about issues, and how the country deals with its challenges, but at this point, it's a lot about personality attacks.The efforts to reach across the sectarian divide are very weak."
Mladenov also criticised the delay on the budget, saying how this could hurt investor confidence, delay projects and become increasingly politicised as the dispute continues.
This Iraq Business News writer feels that if elections are delayed in the Sunni majority provinces of Al-Anbar, Ninewa and Diyala it will hurt any attempt by Maliki to appease Sunni anger. Maliki's recent attempts to win support in Anbar have involved increasing the federal budget for the province and an effort to revive the anti-extremist Sahwa movement.
But it could be justifiably argued that prominent Iraqi politicians have made statements calling for national unity and arguing against purely military solutions to the security crisis.
Unfortunately these politicians (notably Ammar al-Hakim) are seen by many in Al-Anbar as being close to Iran in a regional sectarian conflict. Regardless of their ultimate loyalty, perception may be more important than reality. Mladenov's job would be made easier if the anti-sectarian voices could grow stronger, something he is rightly calling for.