A series of attacks north of Baghdad killed eight soldiers Tuesday as Iraq’s election campaign enters its 10th day, leaving many believing that efforts taken to reach across the sectarian divide have failed. Iraq’s electioneering campaign officially started 1 April marking a transition in the country’s political crisis with the vote set for 30 April. The campaigning by candidates was matched by an increase in violence in some provinces. Not only will violence affect the political stability of Iraq, it also might raise — if it has not already raised — concern in Washington over the viability of the “democratic” system they brought to Iraq via military action over 10 years ago. Iraqi analysts agree that security forces must guarantee the security of the vote so as to encourage participation. Ahmed Ali, Iraq research analyst and Iraq Team lead at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington DC, told Ahram Online that pre-election violence in Iraq is common and has happened in previous elections. “The groups carrying out the violence, like ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), intend to disrupt the electoral process and prevent Iraqi Sunnis in particular from participating, leading to discrediting the political process.”
“The Iraqi government and Sunni clerics can play a major role in ensuring that Iraqi Sunnis embrace elections by encouraging participation and increasing security levels,” Ali states.
John Drake, Iraq specialist for AKE (a UK risk mitigation firm), says that given the ongoing frequency of terrorist attacks and killings in Iraq, the public are relatively resilient in the face of violence.
“Stability could be threatened if a senior political figure is killed, an unusually large number of civilians are killed, or if violence renders voting impossible in certain areas,” Drake states.
Joel Wing, Iraq analyst at Musings on Iraq, told Ahram Online that violence overall is reaching a level right now not seen since 2004 when an “insurgency” was first taking off.
“Candidates have been targeted along with security forces and the general public. The question is whether the security forces will be able to secure the vote,” Wing adds.