Every week recently, Laith Abboud – not his real name – has been going to round tables and other meetings organized by political parties in his hometown of Karmah, one of the smaller cities in the central Anbar province. Every time he attends, the 29-year-old says that he gets some money from politicians – and it’s even better if he brings others with him, then he is paid even more.
During the campaigning we feel as though we are people of great importance and that we live in a country that seeks to serve its citizens.
It’s a guaranteed source of income, he told NIQASH. “We only wish that the election campaigns would go on longer,” he adds. “It is an opportunity for many of us, especially those of us who are unemployed. For three or four months before the elections, the political parties here are trying really hard to win our votes and do things for us – so we make use of this time to get something.”
“We only wish that election campaigning could go on longer,” he says.
Paying locals to attend their rallies and debates is not the only way candidates in Anbar try to improve life for their potential constituents. Often would-be politicians bring food and other gifts and they will also do their best in the pre-campaigning period to exert influence and try to get things done for supporters. It shows they have influence and power and therefore should be elected.
Over the past month or so, long-made promises have been fulfilled and stalled projects re-started.
“The candidates work very hard during this period to gain the support and sympathy of voters,” agrees Othman al-Qubaisi, a 46-year-old resident of Fallujah, who adds that he sees local political parties achieve something almost every other day, often things that would never have been achieved if the elections had not been approaching. Al-Qubaisi says he only hopes that the candidates who are eventually elected will keep on behaving like this – but he doubts it.
“I wish the election campaigning could go on for a year, or maybe two years,” jokes Ayman Abdul-Kareem, a 52-year-old who lives in one of the furthest suburbs outside the city of Ramadi; NIQASH meets him in a coffee shop in the city centre. Of course, he knows full well that election campaigning is only legally allowed to happen for one month before the date of the actual elections on May 12.
But if the election campaigning lasted longer, then all the streets would be paved, and everyone would have electricity and water, he says. “Politicians try and satisfy citizens’ desires during campaigning,” he argues. “We feel as though they care for us now, even if it’s only for a little while.”
“During the campaigning we feel as though we are people of great importance and that we live in a country that seeks to serve its citizens,” adds his coffee-drinking partner today, Haji Abdul Rahman, 60. Long may it last, the two men say and toast their wishes with another round of coffees.