An American institute has addressed the Russian war on Ukraine as a sudden crisis that threatens democratic standards and energy markets around the world, increasing the urgency of stabilizing Iraq (the world's fifth largest oil producer).

The writers Knox Times and Sarmand Hama Saeed - in an article published by the United States Institute of Peace - said that the efforts of the Iraqi political parties to form a new government are still facing a dead end despite the passage of 5 months since the early elections, under the pressure of the mass protests against Ineffective system of government in the country.

The 2021 elections in Iraq reflected the positive effects of the protest movement (Anatolia)

Accountable judgment

The authors argue that shaping a more stable and peaceful Iraq - and responding to protesters' demands for democratic and accountable governance - will require the full inclusion of Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities.

However, the prospects remain unclear, and Iraqi minorities are watching closely because their future depends on it.

The October 2021 elections in Iraq reflected the positive effects of the largely youth-led protest movement, which in 2020 forced parliament to pass an election law, among other reforms, that facilitated the election of independents.

Iraqi and international observers generally agree that the elections have been the most technically fair since 2005, due in large part to the new election commission and significant international monitoring, with one finding that powerful Shiite parties lost seats.

But these elections have left many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities feeling disenfranchised, while the new election law grants parliamentary seats to minorities, and its provisions have empowered larger political parties and coalitions to control those seats, effectively marginalizing those whose representation the law aims to enhance. .

The authors argue that the still-forming government could mitigate this problem with appointments and policies to strengthen minority voices, but it remains unclear if it would be interested in doing so.

The authors consider the integration of minorities as a complex task for the democratic system in Iraq, a country that includes several religious and ethnic sects such as the Yazidis and Zoroastrianism, and was also a cradle of Judaism and Christianity, as well as other sects such as Shabak, Mandaeans, Kaka’is and Bahais, even the Muslim majority is diverse, with the presence of two sects Two major Islamists: Sunnis and Shiites.

Shrinking minorities

However, deeply rooted Iraqi minorities are shrinking, some still face violent attacks by the Islamic State or other armed groups, and many still live in displacement camps, most of them struggling to survive economically.

The authors pointed out that the waves of immigration led to a reduction in the Christian population in Iraq from 1.5 million in 2003 to an estimated 250,000 or less, and many Yazidis and Kakais fled Iraq, so strengthening the representation of minorities in the government is necessary to solve these problems.

The country's 2005 constitution strengthened Iraqis' efforts to represent their diversity in their parliament, and in 2020 the election law allocated 9 seats for minorities;

Divided between religions and regions, 5 are allocated to Christians, and one is reserved for Yezidis, Shabaks, Sabean-Mandaeans, and Faili Kurds. In addition, a quarter of the seats are reserved for women, including a seat assigned to each constituency.

Although not practiced in the United States, reserving seats for women or designated minorities is a method used by many countries to ensure that minorities are represented at the highest law-making body and give their communities a voice and access to policy makers.

The American Institute believes that the task of ensuring the real representation of minorities in government and government has not yet been accomplished (Reuters)

Searching for a solution

The authors argue that a vital step for the new Iraqi government to take is to ensure true minority representation in governance and government, and US Institute of Peace research data since 2018 shows that this task has not yet been accomplished, and the 2021 elections may have set it back even further.

According to the article, minorities in Iraq feel helpless and insecure amid the instability in Iraq, and uncertainty about their future.

If these problems are not addressed, they will lead to new waves of immigration as countries in Europe and North America open their doors to immigrants.

Whatever the response mechanisms, US Institute of Peace data since 2018 has consistently demonstrated that parliament, the federal government, the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, and regional and local councils must respond to minority governance, economic, security, and social needs.

In the long run, the authors conclude, more electoral reform may be needed, with the quality of Iraq's democracy and the fabric of its diverse culture at stake.

As democracies around the world attempt to promote democracy and peace in the face of the new war in Europe and the chain coups in the African Sahel, strengthening Iraq's democratic impulse - which was reflected in its protest movement and recent elections - would be a valuable asset.

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