As Iraq set national elections for March 7, a series of car bombings rocked Baghdad Tuesday. The coordinated attacks hit government buildings, colleges, a mosque and a bank, killing at least 121 people and wounding hundreds. The attacks followed two similar massive bombings targeting government institutions, one in August and another in October.
In a statement yesterday, the Iraqi Communist Party called the attacks a "terrorist operation" aimed at "inflicting greatest harm to our people and the political process, and eventually serving to achieve the evil objectives (of the terrorist forces) of restoring the rule of tyranny and dictatorship."
Just days earlier, Iraq's political leaders finally adopted a new law to govern the elections that will choose a new Parliament for the next four years - a crucial period that will shape Iraq as it emerges from U.S. occupation. Adoption of the law was delayed by wrangling among the currently dominant political parties, and by controversy over provisions that hand votes to the dominant parties at the expenses of smaller parties. Bickering between the big political blocs turned into a vicious fight over their share of seats in the forthcoming Parliament. That fight renewed and heightened sectarian and ethnic tensions, just as the country had been moving away from sectarian politics, with the public demanding action on economic and social needs. The result now is that sectarian political alignments have re-emerged.
The Communist Party, which holds two seats in the current 275-member Parliament, called it "noteworthy" that Tuesday's attacks came "in the aftermath of intensified political struggles between the ruling forces over the undemocratic amendment to the law for electing the Parliament."
The nasty political power struggle, the party said, was "bound to have a negative impact on the security situation, giving impetus to the activity of terrorist forces that have committed this heinous criminal operation."
The Communists called upon the government to step up protection of its citizens, "speed up purging the security forces from corrupt elements, pursue relentlessly the remnants of Saddam's Baath party, al-Qaeda, militias and gangs of organized crime, and hand them to justice."
Beyond that, the party said all "patriotic, democratic and Islamic forces" that are truly concerned about the Iraqi people need to "put the national interest above any other consideration" and work together to put a decisive end to terrorist activity.
The election law passed by Parliament on Dec. 6, after a last-minute deal involving high-level American pressure, retains the undemocratic provisions of the original draft. Its most glaring flaw is that it hands over to the largest electoral slates all the votes for small slates that do not meet a certain vote threshold. Thus, those voters are essentially disenfranchised, and small parties face enormous obstacles in gaining representation in Parliament.
Despite the undemocratic nature of the law, left and progressive figures announced they have formed a nationwide election slate called People's Unity (Ittihad al-Shaab). The coalition is led by the Iraqi Communist Party and includes the National Democratic Party (First), the Democratic Chaldeo-Assyrian List, the Arab Workers' Revolutionary Party, the Party of Fraternity and Peace, and several prominent personalities. The announcement, at the National Theater in central Baghdad, drew a crowd of more than 2,000. The slate put forward a detailed program emphasizing construction of a democratic Iraqi state, civil liberties and rights, and economic and social development.
Salam Ali, of the Iraqi Communist Party, said that in this electoral slate his party will seek to raise public political awareness, mobilize the people in defense of their rights and strengthen the party's links to the people, as part of its efforts to build a mass party. "We will do our best, of course, to surpass the electoral threshold for the provinces and win parliamentary seats," he said.
Photo: U.S. soldiers and a private security guard are dwarfed by a Baghdad mural depicting Iraqi striving for freedom and a better life.(http://www.flickr.com/photos/soldiersmediacenter/ / CC BY 2.0)