Graffiti left by Shiite Muslim fighters on a house in Fallujah, after fighting the IS group there. (photo: Tasnim News / Wikimedia Commons)
The federal elections that were held in mid-May this year should have been of great interest to the people of Anbar province. These were the first elections since the extremist group known as the Islamic State had been driven out of the province, a chance for locals to choose their fate via the ballot box rather than have it forced upon them by men with guns.
But six weeks after the elections, and it feels as though disinterest in the democratic process is at an all-time high in Anbar. Most people here seem to care more about the results of this year’s football World Cup than they do about the fact that politicians have been accused of fraud in those elections, and that the next government is far from being formed.
The people of Anbar were convinced that the outcome was decided before the elections even took place.
Nobody seems to want to debate this or discuss the allegations of fraud, many of which have been made against the political entities that represent this very province. Then again maybe this is not surprising, given low voter turnout and the levels of apathy in Anbar, which were high even before the elections.
Problems updating the local electoral rolls, including the displaced in the voting and the ongoing instability in Anbar as the population continues to move around, meant that, from the start, many people here didn’t see how the election could be carried out successfully. That is also why, when talking to locals here, a lot of people simply ask: why should I care?
Additionally, many locals believe that the suffering and problems in the province come as a direct result of policies of their representatives, says Abdul-Qader Allawi, 45, a political analyst in Ramadi. “Exploratory research indicates that is why policies and programs, and even the election results being appealed, are not a priority for people here,” he explains.
“The people of Anbar were convinced that the outcome was decided before the elections even took place,” says Akram Fadel, a 42-year-old resident of Fallujah. “The corrupt people have their fingers in every pie and they are supported by opportunistic people in their constituencies. That’s why we think that whatever happens now, and whatever happens in the future, means almost nothing.”
Fadel says there’s no point in debating the outcomes of the elections. What people here want is action.
The apathy is also about who won, suggests Adnan al-Jumaili, a 48 year old political scientist from Ramadi. “Most of the winning parties and alliances are Shiite Muslim,” he notes; Anbar is a Sunni Muslim majority province. “People here already know that the representatives from Anbar won’t be able to make a big impact in parliament.”
“Why should Anbaris hope and dream when they already know that their representatives will not be sitting at the same table with the most powerful politicians?,” he concludes.
The view in Anbar: Locals would rather watch the football.