Elections without the US
April 20th, 2013 was the first Iraqi election without security help from the US. This election replaced 18 local councils elected in 2009 with 18 new governorates. The campaign for this 2013 election has been violent but not as violent as many thought it would be. Leading up to the election there were 14 candidates killed. The Iraqi government implemented many security measures leading up to the elections in order to keep citizens and candidates safe. These measures included a car ban and a curfew on Election Day. Three providences, Anbar, Kirkuk and Nineveh, did not hold elections because of insecurity in the region. The security measures produced a major problem with the elections, by making the polling centers very difficult to get to. Many Iraqis claimed that the voting centers were too far away without the use of cars and therefore they were not able to vote in this election.
The violence leading up to this election has been the same violence that has overcome Iraq and the Middle East; racial disputes between the Sunni’s and Shiites. The fourteen candidates that have been killed in this election were all Sunni. It is reported that some assassinations were by political opposition but others were by Sunni radicals associated with Al Qaeda. It may seem odd that radical Sunnis would attack other Sunnis when they want more representation I the Shiite controlled government, but the targets have been more moderate Sunnis that look to work with the Shiites for equality. The deterrence of voters due to curfew and car bans is not the reason people are not appearing at the polls to vote. The problem is fear. The violence between the Sunnis and Shiites is deterring both voters and viable candidates.
A political science professor at a Bagdad university explains, “Killing candidates means instilling fear and that is why I think it will affect voter participation, because I don’t think people will want to risk their lives again.” Many believed that the violence leading up to this election was mild compared to what it could have been. However, next year Iraq will hold general elections for the first time without US security forces. This is the main concern in Iraq right now. If this amount of fear is being provoked for eighteen local councils, what will happen in a general election in Iraq?