06/02/2009

Promising poll in Iraq

Past Saturday, the Iraqis were called to the polls to elect their representatives in fourteen of the eighteen provinces. The current global situation made these elections a major test for Iraq’s future. The assessment made following the outcome is fairly positive, although some nuances must be add.

Although voters weren’t numerous to go to the polls – 51% of participation – the day took place without notorious violence. This relative calm is even more remarkable that the elections were characterized by a massive return of the Sunnis to the polls. Their willingness to weigh in again in the electoral game is a good omen for national reconstruction.

The Coalition for the rule of law, lead by the Prime Minister Nouri el-Maliki has proved to be the big winner of this election, which was also marked by a clear decline of religious parties. The party of radical Shiite leader Moqtada el Sadr has lost the province of Missan, the only that it ruled, but remains in second place in Baghdad.

With the scheduled withdrawal of American troops, the victory of Nour el Mailiki’s party represents a guarantee of stability and the prospect of a good cooperation with the United States. In addition, the changes in foreign policy made by the new U.S. administration may be such as to alter the regional balance. It is possible for the place of Iran in the Middle East to change and to influence the internal politics of its neighbour. On the other hand, the continuing path of the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq to independence is not likely to please its neighbours like Turkey and Iran, which are reluctant to grant autonomy to their own Kurdish populations.

Finally, the national and the global contexts seem to predict a better future for a country that has gone through many dark years. The game of the regional powers does include a number of risks that Iraq will have to avoid or to face. For this reason, the period before the withdrawal of U.S. troops is crucial for the strengthening and stabilization of a democratic Iraqi state.

N.J.O.