10/08/2021, 00.00
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Card. Sako invokes great voter turnout in elections against fraud, for a real change

by Dario Salvi

The October 10 election is a "moment of hope" that requires "broad participation". USA, Australia and Europe praise the work of the Independent Electoral Commission. Exchange vote also among Christians, question of quotas for minorities to be reviewed. 



Rome (AsiaNews) - The elections are a "moment of hope" for a "real change" provided there is "broad participation"; for this reason to all Iraqis, but especially to young people "I say go and vote" to "contribute to a better future", otherwise "everything will remain as before and you will not be able to complain".

This is what the Chaldean Primate, Card. Louis Raphael Sako, writes on the eve of a crucial vote for the future of the country, brought forward by a year compared to the natural expiration of the legislature in response to the street protests of autumn 2019.

"Iraq - adds the cardinal - needs a change that is the result of broad participation." 

Young Iraqis, protagonists of the demonstrations two years ago from Baghdad to Basra, are "disappointed". Some of them will present themselves to the vote as candidates, Card. Sako continued, but "I don't know how many possibilities they have of asserting themselves". Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 "we have gained freedom and democracy", losing "stability" in a climate of "confusion". The country and its people are "poorer" in the grip of "interests and opposing nations: we need a real democratic change, because the country is rich but the money is diverted from corruption and malfeasance.

The general elections of October 10 are the fifth vote to renew the single-chamber parliament since the U.S. invasion that led to the fall of Saddam Hussein and generated a complex multiparty system. Approximately 25 million voters are called to the polls, who will have to choose 329 deputies from 3,200 candidates in 83 constituencies. 25% of seats are reserved for women.

The future Chamber will have to indicate the president and the prime minister, who will then be entrusted with the task of forming the government. Victory should go to the Shiite movements already in power, although internally they present deep divisions.

Recently several religious leaders, including the Chaldean Patriarch and the highest Shiite authority, the great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have launched appeals against abstentionism.

The Cardinal confirms:  "Our words have had a wide echo in the population. The president himself thanked me for this appeal, which is strong precisely to encourage people even if the situation remains complicated". There is a danger of boycotts of the ballot box even by ordinary citizens "disappointed not to have seen any change in 18 years."

This, he notes, is also a "great danger" because there are forces interested in "obstructing" the vote to form "an emergency government. Many factions are hoping for low turnout, to do what they want." 

The international community will keep a watchful eye on the elections, defining the appointment with the ballot box as an opportunity that citizens must take advantage of to determine their future in a democratic way. Dozens of nations, including the United States, Australia, Canada and members of the European Union have praised the work of preparation of the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission. The hope is that it will be a free, fair, inclusive vote without violence.

Cardinal Sako : "If people participate  it will be possible a change from the past. In 2018 there were documented cases of fraud and corruption, actually only 20% of people would have voted. Iraqis are afraid of fraud, that the same people of the past are plotting to stay in power" and we must respond to them "with a great participation." It is necessary to fight, he continues, against those who move in politics only "for personal interests, without a vision of the future". 

Finally, the Chaldean Primate is critical of Christian politicians, who have also been implicated in the past in episodes of corruption or "bribe votes, with undue promises to gain consensus. For this reason, he concludes, it would be important to review the issue of quotas reserved for minorities", because so "they make no sense and serve the interests of the politicians, not of the minority community". 

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