Violence Threatens Mosul Elections

Ninawa province is gearing up for provincial elections, fearful that poor security conditions will prevent a successful outcome. While the rural districts of the province are witnessing improved security conditions, the key city of Mosul remains tense.

The city, which witnessed an extensive security operation launched in May 2008, continues to experience sectarian violence and people say they are fearful of voting. Already a series of assassinations have occurred targeting key political figures. Observers say the violence is intended to prevent people from voting.

Majeed Rasheed al-Nuaimi, a member of Ninawa’s provincial council says he expects many challenges and failures during the forthcoming elections. “Security conditions are still tense, bombings and assassinations are taking place day and night and are threatening the social fabric of the city… Yazidis were terrorized and have escaped the city and the Shabak and Kurds have faced a similar fate; now it is the turn of the Christians,” he said.

Nonetheless, even in these conditions, elections are proceeding. Abdul Khaliq Ahmad al-Dabbagh, general director of Ninawa’s election office, told Niqash that they would proceed and that 27 political entities have registered to compete for the 37 provincial seats. The province will open 632 ballot centers and 4146 polling stations – a large increase on the 20 ballot centers and 2625 polling stations of 2005.

The election is coming down to a straight fight between the two main blocs: the National Hadba list, which includes a number of pan-Arab streams, and the Ninawa Brotherly List, largely comprised of Kurdish parties.

The two sides are already trading fierce accusations. Khasro Koran, Ninawa’s deputy governor and a leading Brotherly list figure, has accused the Hadba bloc of including baathists on its list. And Atheel al-Nujaifi, the general coordinator of the Hadba bloc, has accused Kurdish Pashmerga forces of disturbing security conditions and attempting to annex parts of the province.

Other than these two lists, there are no other significant political groupings. Moreover, the province’s difficult security conditions and the need to hold political activities in secret have prevented new parties from emerging in the public eye.

Indeed, according to Jasim Khalaf, a researcher at Mosul University, the 2005 elections witnessed a much stronger public debate. Parties used posters, publications and public meetings to promote themselves. Today, poor security conditions are preventing similar campaigning. Most parties, with the exception of the two major blocs, do not have premises or media outlets through which to run their election campaigns.

The National Hadba bloc on the other hand broadcasts through the Mosuliyeh Satellite Station and owns the Iraqiyoon newspaper. The Ninawa Brotherly list owns a number of media outlets such as Ninawa Brotherly Radio.

According to Khalaf, the result is that while “previous elections witnessed the presence of parties and the absence of people because of a wide boycott… the coming elections show a desire by people to participate but an absence of competing parties.”

It is expected that the Ninawa Brotherly list, which is dominated by the two major Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), will win most of the votes in the northern and western parts of Ninawa, as well as northern Mosul, all heavily populated by Kurds.

The Hadba list is expected to win the support of southern Ninawa and most of Mosul city which are inhibited by an Arab majority. With an increased Arab turnout compared to the 2005 elections, which were boycotted by many Arabs, the list is expected to gain a larger share of the provincial council.

Observers expect the districts and rural areas of the province, rather than Mosul, to determine the course of election, given the more stable security conditions and high voter registration.