Statement on Sunday’s Elections in Iraq

Young people in tuk-tuk in Basra display portrait of slain journalist
Young Iraqis in a tuk-tuk display the portrait of slain security analyst and journalist Husham al-Hashimi on the first anniversary of his assassination. Basra, June 2021. (Azhar al-Rubaie)

On Sunday, Iraqis will head to the polls to elect a new parliament.

Based on our new report, the pro-reform movement (known as “Tishreen”) enjoys the support of 70% of eligible voters polled. Among decided voters, Tishreen candidates hold a commanding lead with 7 out of 10 saying they plan to vote for candidates representing the protest movement.

However, for the movement to translate that popular support into electoral gains, strong voter turnout on Sunday will be essential, along with efforts to ensure a fair electoral playing field.

Unfortunately, political violence and widespread concerns about election violations are making that difficult. Since the start of the Tishreen protests in October 2019, Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) has documented the assassination of 35 activists in 82 targeted killings. As Belkis Wille of Human Rights Watch recently wrote: “Because of these targeted killings, many Iraqis who led the protests and who were keen to become the soul of a new political movement in Iraq have fled their homes in fear or gone silent.”

Yet despite the dangers, Tishreen-affiliated parties have bravely fielded 99 candidates to compete for seats across Iraq’s newly-established 83 electoral districts, and based on our estimate, another hundred Tishreen candidates are running either as independents or with the support of moderate parties.

Provided there’s a strong voter turnout and election violations are kept in check, our polling suggests that pro-reform parties and candidates can expect to do well.

To learn more about why successive governments in Iraq have failed to adopt urgently needed reforms, how those failures and the human rights violations of out-of-control militias gave rise to the Tishreen movement, and what the prospects are for the movement on October 10th and beyond, EPIC has published a study titled: The Long Game: Iraq’s “Tishreen” Movement and the Struggle for Reform.

The report is the product of a year of research that included focus group discussions with Tishreen and Kurdish activists, a nationally representative survey of public opinion, an analysis of social media, and dozens of in-depth interviews.

Whether through genuinely free and fair elections or through grassroots social movements, the integrity and agency of the Iraqi people to determine their own future and exercise their country’s sovereignty must be respected.

Thank you for your interest and for all you do to help make our work possible.

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