Elections in Iraq: Economy and security central. Christian leader: vote for change

Tomorrow the country will vote to renew the 329 parliamentary seats. Of these 83 are reserved for women, nine for minorities, of which five for Christians. Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds divided suffer internal division. Yonadam Kanna: "Towards political and non-sectarian majorities". Chaldean patriarchate issues fresh appeal for voter participation.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Increased security, job opportunities for a growing number of people and a revival of the economy, plagued by years of violence and conflict, internal and regional, which have led to deep crises and general impoverishment of the population. These are the elements of greatest interest for the Iraqi citizens, called to the polls tomorrow  May 12for the general elections in which the 329 members of the Council of Representatives (the unicameral Parliament) will be renewed. The deputies will then be called to form the new executive and elect the future president, crucial appointments that will outline Iraq in the near future.

There will be almost 20 million citizens with voting rights, spread across the 18 provinces of the country; voters will be able to choose from a total of 6,990 candidates representing 87 parties, lists or movements. For women - just over 2 thousand candidates - 25% of seats are reserved (83), while there are 46 for the Kurds; another nine seats are reserved for religious minorities, including five for Christians.

The parliamentary elections of May 12 are the fourth since the 2003 US invasion, which led to the ouster of the former Raìs Saddam Hussein; it is also the first election since the ascent and the subsequent defeat of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis), the ultra-radical Sunni movement led by the "Caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who for almost two years controlled almost the half of the country.

In recent years, the fight against ISIS has been a unifying element, in a nation that has always been fragmented due to ethnic and confessional conflicts. However, today the political and institutional landscape of the country appears to be divided even within the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish camps, and the leaders of the various coalitions are dominated by the same politicians who have long been holding the ranks of Iraq.

Speaking to AsiaNews ahead of the vote, the Christian parliamentary Yonadam Kanna, leader of the Rafidain Coalition (the Assyrian Democratic Movement), recounts a climate of "great distrust and disappointment" in the electorate "towards the government and the main parties". A discontent dictated by a problematic economic and social situation, before which "ordinary people want to respond by contributing to change" through voting. The hope, he adds, is "to arrive one day at the birth of a civil state governed by law".

"I am deeply convinced - continues Yonadam Kanna - that the election will be the engine for a great change towards a principle of political and non-sectarian majorities. This is because the blocks of the past are today divided and fragmented and this represents a positive step for the future of Iraq ". The Christian leader  excludes a repercussion on the Iraqi vote of regional tensions, following the decision of US President Donald Trump to cancel the Iranian nuclear agreement. "A choice - he says - that has no influence on voters or votes in Iraq".

In terms of fragmentation, the major divisions are  in the Shiite camp: the ambitions of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to regain a central role (at the head of the Dawa party), clash with the goal of the outgoing Prime Minister Haider Abadi - protagonist of the offensive against the Islamic State - to remain in power. The latter has formed a coalition of his own (Nasr) and, in recent months, has emptied the rival Dawa from within, subtracting numerous (and authoritative) candidates.

In recent weeks the "strange alliance" has emerged between loyalists of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and communists. From the Sunni front, the threats of the past years of abstention have been archived, the probable political inconsistency remains due to the deep internal divisions. Already a minority in the country, even for the 2018 vote, the Sunnis have not been able to unite under a single block capable of representing their aspirations in Parliament.

The Kurds played a key role in the 2010 and 2017 elections, relying on their weight in the choice of the Prime Minister. However, the attempt by the Kurdish leadership and the Barzani family to achieve independence through referendums (with the majority of voters in favor, but the intervention of the central government and the judiciary in Baghdad effectively cancelling the consultation) has paved the way for new divisions and power struggles. With Kirkuk under the control of the central authority, the Kurds seem to have little room for manoeuvre to really affect the political future of the nation.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the Iraqi Church relaunch the call for participation, choosing "those who will best serve" citizens and the homeland. On 6 May, in all the churches of the country, at the end of the Mass a message will be read signed by the Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako. The Chaldean primate asks to "pray for electoral success" and so that there is no violence at the polls. Looking toward the next Parliament, the prelate warns of the duty to "eradicate corruption and work for reconstruction and reconciliation" by strengthening citizenship and the rule of law, freeing the nation from regional and international "pressures". (DS)