28 December 2005

After Iraq's election 2

The author is Ahmed Chalabi's daughter, who recently earned her PhD at Harvard.

The Prospect
Issue 118 / January 2006

After Iraq's election 2

The election managed to mobilise all Iraqi groups into political participation. But it also entrenched the country's increasing ethnic polarisation

Tamara Chalabi
Tamara Chalabi travelled throughout Iraq during the election campaign. Her book on Lebanon's Shias is forthcoming

Every major Iraqi community turned out to vote in high numbers, including the Sunnis who boycotted the last election in January. From 8m voters then, the number rose this time to 11m, out of 15m registered to vote. But where, prior to the Ba'ath regime, Iraqi parties covered the established political spectrum of left and right, this time identity politics took centre stage; large numbers voted on the basis of ethnicity or sect.

Nevertheless, in my conversations with Iraqis of various communities, it was region and class that seemed to determine voting choices most strongly. Fawaz, a third-year chemistry student at Baghdad University and a Sunni, leaned towards a secular list but felt pressured to vote Sunni by the shadowy violent groups in his mixed neighbourhood, al-Hurriya in Baghdad, where both Sunnis and Shias have been targeted.

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