Will Iranian-Controlled Christian Tokenism Increase In Iraq’s Elections?

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Christian Aswan Salim of the Iran-aligned Babylon Movement running for re-election in Iraq

Iraq is scheduled to go to the polls on October 10, electing a new House of Representatives that will then choose a prime minister. These will be the first elections since popular demonstrations roiled the country beginning in October 2019. Government and militia death squad repression of those demonstrations killed hundreds of young people with little to no accountability. Demonstrators were able to bring about the fall of Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi but most demands were not met.

The mood for political change in Iraq seems muted today, reforms never really happened, and some opposition groups of demonstrators have called for a boycott of what they see as flawed elections while other reformists have cautioned that there is no substitute for voter participation. Some things seem assured, that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi will likely remain in the office he has held since May 2020, and that Shia political parties and militias allied to Iran will do well and maintain their positions of power. Continuity rather than radical change seems the expected outcome in an Iraq facing multiple challenges. If domestic reform ever actually does come, it will do so in measured and incremental terms.

One of the dismaying results of the previous 2018 elections – at least for one small part of the Iraqi electorate – was the intromission of pro-Iranian militias into the small number of quota seats set aside for Iraq’s Christian minority (nine out of the 329 seats in Iraq’s parliament are set aside for minorities, five of those for Christians). In a shocking development two of the five Christian seats went to members connected with the “Babylon Movement,” the political branch of an ostensibly Iraqi Christian militia (most of the militia’s members are non-Christians), the “Babylon Brigade,” aligned with the Iranian-controlled militias and parties that wield so much power in Iraq.

The problem of “hijacking minority seats” is an obvious one. Read it all at MEMRI.org