Barham Salih has welcomed Prime Minister Kadhimi’s call for early elections, but many obstacles remain.
Rabat – President of Iraq Barham Salih, on Tuesday, August 4, called Prime Minister Mustapha Kadhimi’s proposal for early elections “one of the requirements of the desired political reform,” according to National Iraqi News Agency. The announcement comes after Kadhimi upheld his promise to commit to early elections in response to the 2019 protest movement.
Salih stated that Iraq’s political crisis “cannot bear procrastination.” He presented the move to early elections as a logical outcome in response to popular discontent over Iraqi politics. The tension led to nationwide protests in 2019. The nation is embroiled in concurrent crises because of the economic impact of government measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, low oil prices, and continued instability.
Iraq’s prime minister had called for early elections on July 31, announcing the intended date for the elections in a televised speech.” June 6, 2021, has been fixed as the date for the next legislative elections,” he proclaimed. The prime minister’s decision received praise from the United Nations as a path towards “greater stability and democracy,” but many members of parliament would clearly prefer to continue the current status quo.
Prime Minister Kadhimi appears to want to reshuffle the current parliamentary makeup, which has led to much political intransigence and delay amid chaotic times. Kadhimi has now passed the responsibility of furthering the process toward elections onto his political opponents. While many of Iraq’s parliamentarians might prefer to hamper this process, Kadhimi’s gamble would mean his opponents draw the ire of the public if the elections fail to materialize in time.
While Iraq’s public and political leaders appear eager to achieve the ambitious goal of organizing elections within a year, many obstacles remain that could prove a stumbling block.
The process of organizing the national poll requires authorization of the electoral budget and ratification of the election results by all judges on Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court. The court is currently incomplete.
Another difficult element is the cost of the election, which the government estimates to be between $250 million and $300 million. Kadhimi has asked the electoral committee to reduce these costs due to severe circumstances. The country is struggling with a dire economic crisis, significantly worsened by the pandemic and a severe slump in oil prices.
The political blocs that stand to lose in new elections will have sufficient incentive to try to stall them. Nahrain University Political Science Professor Yaseen al-Bakri told Al Monitor that “they want the current parliamentary term to be completed and avoid going to early elections because they are well aware of the little chances they have in the early elections.”
Stalling the electoral process could be as easy as hampering progress towards the establishment of a new electoral law. While parliament has passed the law, it has not sent the law to the president for approval because of disagreements between parliament’s rival factions.