Sometimes no news can be good news, especially when a developing situation or planned election appears poised to spark controversy or public unrest. This past weekend, our attention has been focused on strife at the border between Gaza and Israel, where Palestinians attempting to cross have been met with rifle fire by Israeli soldiers. More than 1,000 people have been wounded in this ongoing situation and at least 41 people have been killed, according to current reports. But since this story is unfolding in real time, we’ll discuss the developments and their implications later this week. Today, our thoughts turn to a far less eventful situation that took place this weekend, notable for its very lack of newsworthy twists and turns: the successful democratic elections taking place in Iraq for the first time since 2014.
Why was this election weekend special?
In 2014, a nation of 37 million ethnically and religiously diverse individuals overcame an entrenched sense of sectarianism and united to push back the rise of the so-called Islamic state. The results of this recent election will not be counted and tallied until the coming week, and voter apathy will likely play a significant role (only about 44 percent of the population turned out to vote), but the process appeared both successful and promising for the future of democracy in Iraq.
Pulled apart by sectarian infighting since the American invasion in 2003 and rife with unregulated weapons and unpredictable violence, the streets of Baghdad were expected to flare with some measure of unrest on Saturday and Sunday. Security forces were deployed to mitigate incidents, but these incidents were few and far between. Quiet streets prevailed, and many citizens who appeared at voting centers expressed an interest in nationhood and patriotism and a desire to politically transcend barriers between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.
Also notable among opinions expressed by those turning out to vote: an interest in reducing corruption, increasing employment opportunities, and strengthening infrastructure. For the first time in several years, these domestic and personal concerns overshadowed security as a top issue.
Those who did not vote largely attributed their decision to frustration with slow progress and a lack of faith in an electoral system they don’t yet trust. But this frustration appears to represent a general sense of exhaustion after years of upheaval, not disinterest in the future of the nation. It’s possible that this weekend marks a minor but notable turning point in Iraq’s experience will fully representational governance. Priorities appear to be shifting from survival to unity and domestic growth, which could foretell higher turnout in elections yet to come. Join us this week as we follow the vote tallies and outcomes of this quietly historic event.
Meanwhile, here’s a simple breakdown of current parliamentary seats and electoral results as they come in.