Leading article: Iraq's chance for a happier future

Related Topics

The last time Iraqis went to the polls in 2005, the election set off a chain reaction of slaughter and mayhem that brought that nation to the verge of break-up. The Sunnis boycotted the vote, allowing Shia and Kurdish parties to sweep all before them. Fearing marginalisation, or worse, under the new political order, the Sunni factions intensified their insurgency campaign, inviting a vicious sectarian backlash from the Shia-controlled security forces.

Four years on Iraqis are voting again, this time in provincial council elections. And this time many Iraqis are daring to hope that the poll will prefigure not a fresh round of bloodshed but, quite possibly, a happier new stage in their country's development.

There are two reasons for this optimism. The first is that the Sunni communities, having broken their alliances with al-Qa'ida, are expected to participate in these elections. The second is that opinion polls suggest secular parties are likely to increase their share of the vote at the expense of the religious-based ones that triumphed so emphatically in 2005. For the first time since the US-led invasion, moderate political secularism appears to be on the rise in Iraq.

Complacency would, as ever in this country, be madness. Three Sunni candidates were killed by gunmen yesterday. There is also a real danger over what might follow the poll. The potential for inter-communal conflict remains, especially if there is evidence of electoral fraud. Nor is the terror threat entirely extinguished. Both Iraqi and American military officials have warned that fanatical groups might try to target polling stations.

And yet violence in the campaigning period leading up to today's poll has been low, notwithstanding yesterday's assassinations. And neutral third party observers from the United Nations are cautiously optimistic that the poll could pass off peacefully.

In political terms, the poll results will demonstrate the extent of the support for Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad administration. If they show a surge in popular support for secular parties, the incumbent prime minister's religious coalition base might look vulnerable. But if the vote of Mr Maliki's own Dawa Party stands up, that should bode well for his prospects in the general elections scheduled for later this year.

But the implications of a peaceful poll are still greater. Iraq's chances of remaining a unitary state will be enhanced. And President Obama's gradual withdrawal of American troops will be able to proceed along the planned timetable.

A country so divided and traumatised by decades of violence is not going to turn into a model democracy overnight. But today Iraq has a chance to become a nation that sorts out its political differences through the ballot box, rather than the gun. For the sake of the Iraqi people, we must hope that this poll is the springboard their fledgling democracy needs.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I was a Woman Against Feminism too

Siobhan Norton
A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, showing the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau  

Boko Haram is a vicious sideshow - Nigeria's self-serving elite is the real culprit

Kevin Watkins
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn