BAGHDAD (Niqash) — The “Madaniyoun” List, also known as the “Democratic Stream,” is a political gathering of three Iraqi secular forces: the Arab Socialist Movement, the National Democratic Party and the Iraqi Communist Party. Niqash (a website on Iraqi politics, media and culture) met the leader of the grouping, Communist Party leader and Member of Parliament Hamid Majeed Mousa, to discuss the movement and Iraq’s political developments.

Niqash: Is “Madaniyoun” a name of an electoral list or a larger political movement?

Mousa: Madaniyoun is not only an election front but also a movement and an initiative to gather democratic forces together to occupy their genuine role in Iraqi society. This stream has been marginalized although some of its members have played a tangible role in society. It was already weakened by the former regime. Unlike other movements, democratic forces did not possess a strong infrastructure when the former regime fell and the country’s political life regained public momentum.

The Kurdish movement, for example, has had a semi-state in Kurdistan since 1991, and this allowed it to build a base and infrastructure, to advance and become more influential. As for Islamic forces, it is true that Saddam fought against them, but he did not dare to shut down all the husayniyat (Shia religious centers), mosques, centers and schools used by the religious authorities. So these forces have maintained their infrastructure and institutions which can be described as cadre premises. The democratic movement however, did not find such support and backing, they did not receive any external support and at the same time they have suffered the repercussions of the collapse of the socialist camp.

Niqash: Do you mean financial support?

Mousa: I don’t mean just financial support but also moral, political and propaganda support. The existence of the socialist camp had moral significance. When America invaded the country, we heard them preaching democracy, but for many reasons, they did not provide democratic streams with any support and they did not facilitate the return of these streams to political life so that they could exercise their role. Yes it is true that they brought down Saddam’s regime but they were biased and favored certain parties and forces at the expense of others and provided them with the necessary support to develop.

Niqash: But is it not true that the U.S. simply behaved in a pragmatic manner having discovered that people aligned with religious forces?

Mousa: There are different reasons and we do not blame anyone; we are just stating facts. We are not competing with any party to gain U.S. sympathy. These are facts. As democrats, we will take our independent decisions and we will not depend on any party to regain our position, but this requires time and it also requires that we develop new methods.

Niqash: The recent election saw a decline in the popularity of religious parties but you did not benefit from this opportunity. Did secular forces miss their chance?

Mousa: No, we didn’t miss it. We, being realistic as politicians, want to avoid rapid progress and jumping over reality. It is true that there were lots of complaints, lack of services and unstable conditions which led many voters, who previously voted for religious parties, to express their frustration and dissatisfaction by voting for other parties. But this does not imply that their votes should automatically go to democratic and secular streams. This will require time and effort. There is a superficial conviction that if voters reject one party, they will automatically vote for its opponent. The change in the mood of voters will provide democratic forces with an opportunity and with optimistic prospects. However, this has not materialized and more effort and time is still needed.

However, the reconstruction process has not yet started and so citizens have not yet settled and completely rid themselves from traditional loyalties and are not yet free to choose those who can best serve their interests. Under-development, illiteracy and sub-identities still impact people.

Niqash: Do you mean that voters were not able to distance themselves from religious influences during the last elections?

Mousa: If voters are to take their own decisions, they should liberate themselves from subordination and traditional loyalties. To be able to have a job, people need to become members of one of the existing parties; to protect themselves, they need to hide behind a militia or armed group of one party or another. Thus people are not yet able to freely choose their representatives. This is an objective and essential element.

We do not want to say we did not make mistakes. We admit that our knowledge of competition in elections was limited because modern democratic traditions are new to us. We did not reach out to all people, we did not use methods that would attract voters who support our cause and there were gaps in our mobilization methods. We admit our mistakes.

Niqash: How do you evaluate the electoral system adopted during provincial elections?

Mousa: The first problem that hindered us from winning seats was the new election law. It was unjust and unfair and it was drafted by influential people to serve their own interests. People were not aware of its real impacts but they have now started to feel them.

In the new law, forces that did not reach the electoral coefficient [total number of votes divided by number of seats in each province] did not win any seat and their votes automatically went to forces who achieved this coefficient. This means that 30 percent of the votes all over Iraq went to winners who did not deserve them at all. The method of seat distribution decreased our share of seats in many provinces. In the past, each district of Iraq had 41 seats with the exception of Baghdad. We won one or two seats in some provinces. But now the number of seats was reduced to 27, 28 and 29; i.e. the coefficient was raised.

In Kut, for example, those who achieved the coefficient do not represent more than 35 percent of votes. Sixty-five percent of votes did not win seats because they did not reach the coefficient.

The result was that those who deserved to win two seats won nine. What kind of democracy is this? Babel, Karbala and Kut provinces will be governed by a minority rather than a majority. This is a violation of the country’s constitution.

Niqash: What alternative system should be adopted?

Mousa: The previous election law stated that vacant seats, after distributing seats among winners, should be distributed among remaining forces, i.e. should go to those who were not able to reach the coefficient. In this way, those who achieved the highest number get the first seat, the second goes to those who ranked second, and so on. Thus we can achieve a diverse and pluralistic representation of all political forces, rather than a monopoly. So instead of 35 percent, representation will reach 100 percent.

Niqash: This is an example of the proportional representation system guaranteed in previous elections.

Mousa: Yes, this fact has adversely affected democratic streams and prevented them from gaining good votes with the exception of Mosul and Salahuddin, where we were able to win one seat in each of those two provinces. In other provinces, despite the number of votes we won, and although we were able to win 2 to 3 percent of the total votes, we are not represented. This percent would have qualified us to win a seat if the old electoral system was applied, but the current unfair system deprived us the opportunity of being represented in all provinces. If the old system was applied, the Communist Party and Madaniyoun would have achieved good results.

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This interview originally appeared at www.niqash.org.

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