Thoughts from Baghdad on the eve of 2018 parliamentary elections. What has changed?

Baghdad, May 12, 2018- I can’t think of any other Arab country today that has more freedom of speech than Iraq. Activists, politicians and political pundits can vent their anger and voice their criticism against anyone in the country without fear.  And for those who are afraid, social media is constantly buzzing with sarcasm and ridicule from fake accounts.

A few politicians even took the bold step of appearing on Al-Basheer Show, a hybrid blend of comedy, news, and political satire show mostly popular among the Iraqi youth and often likened to the U.S. Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  The hard-hitting interview questions maintain a very light-hearted tone but nevertheless give an insight into topics of significance of the political landscape in Iraq.

Another interesting phenomena this election, is the media hosting debates between candidates, in front of a live audience, and nothing is off limits.

The elections come on the heels of a decisive Iraqi victory against ISIS.  Baghdad has never been this safe. This year, only two kidnapping incidents occurred in Baghdad.  Neither incident was terrorism related or politically motivated.  Kidnappers were seeking ransom.  The Iraqi security forces are far better trained and better equipped than ever before.  Their intelligence capabilities have been strengthening and they have been able to neutralize many threats before the incidents occur.

Traveling through Baghdad airport, I have never seen this many foreigners visiting the country-a strong indicator of an improved security climate and an increasing economic and investment activities.

Although there are voices still calling for boycotting the elections, either out of desperation or because of other motives, these voices are certainly not the majority.  Most Iraqis seem to be taking the elections very seriously and are convinced that while real change may take time, the ballot box is the most certain way to achieve that change.

Some remain concerned about election fraud.  As legitimate their concerns are, given some past practices, I am willing to bet that such fraud, if any does occur, will eventually become a thing of the past.  It will be virtually impossible to violate the rules and tamper with results, given the very sophisticated technology used by the Commission and the increased level of awareness by the voters.

We have a saying in Arabic لا يصح الا الصحيح (Only what’s right is right).  With every passing day, all I can see is positive developments in Iraq.  Albeit slow and very challenging, Iraq in my opinion is on the right path.  Leading the change is a wave of incredibly talented, determined, and highly sophisticated youth who have a high level of understanding of their realities and of the world around them and they are keen for real change in the forthcoming elections.


Source: Muhannad Haimour