Al-Sistani’s criticism of Iraqi politics behind low voter turnout: Candidates, observers

people dismantle campaign posters for parliamentary candidates in Ramadi, Iraq. (AP)
Updated 14 May 2018
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Al-Sistani’s criticism of Iraqi politics behind low voter turnout: Candidates, observers

  • Many Iraqis view the government and political parties as mired in corruption and unable to offer them security and basic services
  • Candidates and observers told Arab News that criticism by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani was a major reason for the low turnout

BAGHDAD: Despite the absence of threats against voters and polling stations, turnout for Saturday’s parliamentary election in Iraq was significantly down compared with previous ballots.

The Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) said turnout did not exceed 45 percent, the lowest level since 2005.

Candidates and observers told Arab News that criticism by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, of the political process, politicians, and the electoral law announced a week before election day, was a major reason for the low turnout.

“Failures in past elections included the abuse of power by many who were elected and who occupy senior positions in the government. This can be seen in one way or another in this election,” Al-Sistani said in a statement.

Candidate Ammar Al-Waeili told Arab News that Shiite voters are “frustrated” and were “waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” so they “decided to stay home after that statement.”

Many Iraqis view the government and political parties as mired in corruption and unable to offer them security and basic services such as drinking water and electricity.

A senior Shiite official told Arab News on condition of anonymity that clergymen “are frustrated by people who don’t want to make any effort to change the situation, and by politicians who are corrupt.” This put off many Shiites from voting, he added.

Clergymen in the city of Najaf have played a key role at critical times over the past 15 years. They gave explicit orders to support the political process after the 2003 US-led invasion, and prohibited their followers from getting involved in the 2006-2008 sectarian war. 

The last religious edict by Al-Sistani, head of Najaf’s clergy, urged his followers to join the army and police to liberate Iraqi cities and towns from Daesh.

“Iraqis have been used to getting direct instructions from Al-Sistani for the past 15 years, telling them what they should do,” Sallama Al-Khafaji, a political researcher and former MP, told Arab News.

“When Al-Sistani told them they were free to vote or boycott in this election, they chose the easiest option: Boycott.”


Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

Updated 23 April 2019
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Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

  • Mohammed bin Ali Koman says the situation requires the cooperation of all to alleviate the suffering of the victims and their families
  • He was commemorating Arab Day to raise awareness of the pain of victims of terrorist acts

TUNIS: Not only does the harm caused by terrorist crimes affect innocent victims, it also leaves their families and communities with psychological and social pain, the Secretary-General of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior has said.

This situation requires the cooperation of all to alleviate the suffering of the victims and their families and help them overcome their predicament, Dr. Mohammed bin Ali Koman said.

Koman was commemorating Arab Day to raise awareness of the pain of victims of terrorist acts, held every year on April 22 by the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, member states and the League of Arab States.

“Today is an opportunity to raise awareness of the pain and tragedies of victims of terrorist attacks and encourage all initiatives undertaken by official bodies and civil society organizations to alleviate their suffering,” he said.

“The effects of terrorist crimes have exceeded aggression against human lives and property to psychological and social impacts as well as affecting families,” he said.

“Terrorist crimes result in a continuous bleeding to the heart of affected communities, especially with the terrorist media being devoted to inspiring and promoting their criminal operations, which have affected thousands of victims, including children, women and the elderly.”

He hailed the efforts of the security services in their fight against terrorism and the great improvement in reducing its crimes in recent years, expressing his sympathies for the victims and his support for their families to overcome the aftermath of these crimes.

Koman stressed that the Council of Arab Interior Ministers has taken special measures to raise awareness about the pain of victims of terrorist acts, including the development of media programs to raise security awareness and improve citizens’ contribution to countering terrorist acts in implementation of the Arab counter-terrorism strategy. This was in addition to assigning the Arab bureau for security-related information activities, which operates under the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, to prepare media programs and materials to raise awareness about the dangers of terrorist acts and the suffering they cause.

He highlighted that the council’s efforts go beyond raising awareness to taking concrete measures to support the victims of terrorist acts, including members of the Arab security services and their families.

Koman said that these efforts include the establishment of an Arab security solidarity fund to cover the expenses of medical, social, and psychological support for Arab police and security personnel and their families, in addition to the development of a model for the organizational structure of a department in the security services specializing in psychological counseling.

“The department will be operated by social workers and psychologists who have the capacity to help victims overcome the pain and tragedy of terrorism,” he said.

Koman praised the efforts of Arab countries in assisting the victims of terrorist acts and alleviating their suffering, including providing financial and moral support and providing them with treatment and privileges, such as monthly wages, scholarships for their families and medals of honors to their martyrs.

He urged public and civil society institutions to develop awareness-raising efforts through holding seminars and organizing events to remember the suffering of the victims and provide them with social, psychological and financial support.

Koman concluded by saying a prayer for the victims harmed by terrorist acts and members of the security services who died foiling terrorist crimes and fighting terrorists.