As campaigning for Iraq’s March 2010 parliamentary election officially began the country’s poor have been the unspoken beneficiaries. Political parties are once again offering people blankets, heaters, clothes, and money in return for their votes. The head of the Eyes of Iraq network that is monitoring the election complained to the Election Commission in mid-February 2010 that candidates were handing out appliances to people and promising them money for their votes. Abu Dhabi’s The National paper had a similar story. It interviewed a man from Sadr City in Baghdad who claimed he had organized 100 people in his neighborhood to give him control of their votes. In turn, he was trying to sell them to a political party in return for cash. Aswat al-Iraq also reported that the U.S. military had gotten a tip that up to four million dollars in counterfeit American cash had been sent to Maysan to buy votes. There were similar reports of these activities occurring in the 2009 provincial elections, as well as during the balloting in 2005.
Iraq’s democracy is in its infancy. Political parties have little experience in campaigning and spreading their views and debating their points. That’s why they are attempting to create these patronage systems by handing out goods, money, and the promise of jobs because it’s an easier way to get people to vote for them. There are also plenty of takers since Iraq has a large number of poor and unemployed people. This makes Iraq no different than most other developing countries that use these tactics, and industrial countries in the past as well, to get the vote out. The question for the country’s future is whether the election process will develop where these tactics will be replaced by modern campaign techniques or whether it will stay based upon personality, tribe, sect, and favors.
Abdullah, Muahmmed, “Diyala Sees Early Campaigning,” Niqash, 12/8/08
Aswat al-Iraq, "Counterfeit dollar bills in Missan to affect election," 2/21/10
Latif, Nizar, “Poor selling their votes for cash,” The National, 2/21/10
Middle East Online, “Iraqi Candidates Making Free with Election Gifts,” 1/30/09
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, “Iraqi Candidates Distribute Electric Heaters, Blankets To Poor To Buy Votes,” MEMRI Blog, 2/11/10
Tahir, Wisam, “Nasiriya Parties Hit the Airwaves,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 1/29/09