In Rudaw 

What follows Iraqi parliamentary elections?

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The results of the Iraqi elections are the “last thing” that can affect the formation of the new government, a politician said on Sunday as Iran-backed parties’ supporters staged a sit-in in Baghdad rejecting the official preliminary results.

As Iraqis await final official parliamentary results and the establishment of the new government, pundits and politicians deliberate over potential legislative body leadership following the electoral commission’s announcements of notable party wins and losses.

“The last thing that affects the formation of the [new] government and the strength of stability is the result of the elections,” Sardar Abdullah, a politician and former candidate for Iraqi presidency, said during a roundtable discussion hosted by Rudaw’s Research Center in Erbil. The results are not the “decisive factor” for the new government, he added.

Iraqi headed to the polls for an early vote on Oct. 10. The vote saw a record-low turnout, with 41% of registered voters casting a ballot, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). Experts believe the turnout was even lower.

Iraq’s electoral system was built after the US invasion in 2003, and it divided power among Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups. But the early vote was held under a new electoral system in response to October 2019 protests against corruption and ineptitude among the ruling class and political system. The new system was signed into law by President Barham Salih last November and expanded the number of constituencies from 18 to 83, with voters selecting individual candidates instead of a party, as had previously been the case.

However, the political system in Iraq is “fundamentally flawed,” according to researcher Farah Sabir.

“It’s the same faces [in Iraq] since 2003,” she said. “I say the protests will be back with stronger force if the political system behaves with this deficient mentality from 2003.”

IHEC last week announced the official preliminary results in the parliamentary election, following the manual count of polling stations that faced technical issues. It also gave parties the option to file complaints about the updated results.

The elections handed unexpected victories and devastating blows. Sadr’s movement is leading the election by a large margin, securing more than 70 seats, according to preliminary results, and is expected to be the main force in forming the new government once the results are finalized.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr claimed victory a day after the vote. Three days later, he formed a negotiating committee to hold talks with other parties in order to form a government. In a statement on Sunday, Sadr said they will work on building coalitions that are “national” and not “sectarian” in order to form a “serving government that will protect the homeland and its security, sovereignty, and dignity of its people.”

He appears to be looking to form a mixed government, gathering the strongest parties of Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis, but “Sadr will not form the government,” according to Abdullah.

“In Iraq, whoever has won the elections, didn’t form the government … someone else came and formed the government,” he said.

Iranian-backed parties faced a major defeat in the vote. The Fatih Alliance, led by Hadi al-Amiri of the Badr Organization and supported by a range of pro-Iran militia groups, won just 15 seats. It was the second-largest bloc in the outgoing parliament with 48 seats. The alliance, along with other Shiite parties, rejected the results in a statement, alleging fraud. Their supporters took to the streets of Baghdad to protest the results of the vote.

There will not be a conflict between Shiites, Sabir said. “Iran and Najaf will not allow that.”

The National State Forces Alliance between former prime minister Haider al-Abadi and Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim won four seats. The party also rejected the results.

The Kurdistan Region ruling party achieved a massive victory, tying for third place with 33 seats and once again taking the position of the largest Kurdish party in the Iraqi parliament, according to preliminary results.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) official attitude is to work on the agenda of the new Iraqi parliament, party spokesperson Mahmood Mohammed said at the discussion.

The KDP is engaging in talks with other Kurdish parties to present a united front in Baghdad and better serve the interests of the Kurdistan Region.

The IHEC said it will finish investigating complaints filed regarding the October vote by Monday. It has received over a thousand appeals and two-thirds of them have already been investigated.