Saturday, November 26, 2005

The way to the parliament: fighting with posters and sometimes bullets.

As election day approaches close, electoral campaigning intensifies as well, these campaigns are taking several forms and unfortunately this includes violence which we were hoping we wouldn’t have to see emerge among the competing parties.

Probably the worst case of violence was the one when militia men attacked an office of the communist party (running as part of Allawi’s list) in Sdar city during an electoral event and resulted in killing two of the party members.
The incident is being strongly condemned and the accusation fingers are pointing at Sadr militia since they are the only militia in Sdar city and the government is supposed to take firmer actions against the perpetrators but it seems the government still wants to lose more of its credibility and reputation.

On the other hand, a war of words and speeches is growing among the different parties and candidates and two points issues to be taking more attention here, these are corruption accusations and the recurrence of former Ba’ath members in some lists.
Some candidates, namely Laith Kubba pointed out that he has “political bombs” regarding the above issues that will be revealed soon. Kubba who leads his own list has also challenged Ahmed Chalabi for an electoral debate.

However, people in the street think that candidates should focus more on their political platforms rather than on exchanging accusations and allegations.

The other battlefield of electoral campaigns can be seen in the posters war. Tearing posters of other parties has become so common that there are specialized contractors who get paid to do this! And they either tear the posters or paste their client’s poster over them.
One man who works in this field said to me “there are no more walls left in Baghdad and we had to buy a new set of tall ladders in order to reach the highest spots possible…” while a taxi driver felt sorry for the “money being wasted on these posters” and added “if they used this money to offer free clothes to the poor in this winter I’d give them my vote”.

Aside from what parties put on their posters or say in the speeches they make, the people themselves are also using a portion of the walls to write whatever they like with or against this or that list; one funny line I saw yesterday said something that translates like this:

Vote for Allawi and your wife will buy malawi (heavy bracelets of gold) and vote for the I’tilaf (the united alliance) and you’ll go back to the tlath-talaf (3,000 in reference to the old poor salaries that Saddam paid us).

Civil society organizations have their role too; the most significant initiative came from a new network of 90 NGOs who call themselves “Iraq Without Violence”. This network recruited 1,000 volunteers to watch and report for any violent incidents during electoral campaigns. The network in a statement given to al-Sabah explained that they’ll work to “prevent and expose electoral corruption, fraud and violence and that includes terrorizing voters in any way or interference with voters’ choices even when the case is domestic like when a husband forces his wife to vote for any particular candidate or prevents her from voting at all”.

I really hope the process goes on without more violence or bullets and they keep their war within the lines of posters and words.

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