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Iraq: Iraqi Politicians Comment On Hostility Of The Election Campaign

On the campaign trail: Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (file photo) (epa) The run-up to parliamentary elections on 15 December has seen an escalation in the number of verbal attacks and allegations traded by Iraq’s political blocs. There have also been a number of physical attacks, with some candidates even being killed. Some politicians believe that, for some, the main aim of the campaign has been to polarize opinions within the electorate. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Iraqi politicians in Baghdad on 7 December about the hostility evident in the current campaign.

Ali al-Adib, a member of the National Assembly and a candidate for the United Iraqi Alliance, believes “the verbal attacks can be seen as part of a media war and as an effort to polarize the views of supporters of this or that party. I accept, though, that the electoral battle can truly be called a battle, since parties’ media consultants do pick on someone, [accusing him of] attempting to further some [hidden] goals. They accuse him of making mistakes, and label his efforts a failure, adding that he has not managed to offer the people anything during his term. The thing is that all interim and transitional governments face an unstable situation.”

Ali al-Adib believes, though, that Iraqi voters are discerning.

Such exchanges “may have only a temporary influence because the voters in Iraq today are well-informed. They know that, behind these exaggerations, are mainly political aims. These days, before voters support a party or a politician, they study their history, their ideological and intellectual integrity, and – first and foremost – their transparency.”

Asked by RFI why the parties use verbal attacks and allegations rather than other forms of political exchange, such as face-to-face debates, al-Adib said: “There have been debates of this kind on some satellite channels. Some satellite television stations have included debates with election candidates among their prime-time programs. But some politicians prefer to launch allegations against someone from a distance, and avoid entering a face-to-face debate with the person they have accused of something. They avoid getting a straight, tough response because they would lose all the cards they hold. They think these cards are their aces.”

In recent days, electoral posters and billboards have been torn down. Some have raised their voices in protest. Among them is Abd al-Khaliq Zangana, a member of the National Assembly and candidate for the Kurdistan Coalition List, who says:

“In every election, rivalries can cause problems. But I wish with all my heart that the style of our election were civilized and reflected the scale of our responsibilities. Our cause is to build a new Iraq, which requires morality and transparency, and distancing oneself from partisan passions. Things like tearing off and destroying elections posters, or pouring ink over photos of candidates…[or other] means, such as terror and the killing of candidates, have all been done by enemies of the democratization process. Our response to that is clear. But for us candidates [to do so] is unacceptable.”

The Iraqi National List led by ex-Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has been among those targeted. Iraqi National List member Mufid al-Jaza’iri says the attacks must stop, adding that competition, though integral to the election process, does not justify violence.

“If we start to adopt this style, or if things even develop into violence toward rivals, as has actually happened, our democracy will be finished. This is something we must avoid. We must return to pure, peaceful roots. There is competition between us, but that competition must be based on the use of fair and honest methods, excluding all means and tools that would degrade this, our first democratic experience. Ultimately, that could also degrade this upcoming election and make its results subject to [justified] criticism and protest. We are indeed involved in a competition but let us compete, as they say, fairly and honestly.”

(Translated by Petr Kubalek)

Iraqi Legislative Elections 2005

Iraqi Legislative Elections 2005

RFE/RL's coverage, background, and analysis of Iraq's December 15, 2005, legislative elections.

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