The Iraqi parliamentary elections took place on Sunday 7th of March. Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation reports from Baghdad.

It was obvious from the start that the opinions of the majority of the people I met in the street, on public transport, at work, in taxis etc were in support of the newly formed coalition led by the PM Nuri al-Maliki.

This was not due to his achievements but due to the negative campaigns of the other coalitions blaming any lack of progress in the fields of electricity, water, public housing, reasonable social care, health, public transport and many other services on the Maliki government.

Yet all of them are part of the government and Maliki cannot remove any of them because of the nature of the type of government that Paul Bremer III has devised, by which a government decides by agreement of all ethnic groups, sects and religious representation in parliament.

The previous parliament did not function as a free and sovereign institution, but the heads of the political entities decided amongst themselves and the voting in parliament was just a rubber stamp. The PM has no power to change ministers, whether good or bad, as they are imposed on him and they work according to the wishes of their political masters and are protected by them, though some of these masters are corrupt and some were aiding terrorism, as are some MPs.

Maliki runs the country largely by emergency decrees, as over 50 laws passed by parliament have been stopped by one of the members of the presidency (three presidents and two vice presidents), each of whom has the right of a veto or simply does not sign the law, and so it will stay on the shelf. The exception to that is laws of interest to the USA, such as the security agreement for the USA army to pull out of Iraq.

Parliament became an obstacle to achieving any major investment or large projects such as improving electricity or housing, as it cut the budget to them deliberately, so they will not be counted as an achievement by the PM’s government. In fact, they passed a law within three days to give MPs pensions for life of 80% of their current wage of over US$40,000per month (yes, per month – the average wage of middle income is US$500), on top of diplomatic passports for them and their families for life (!) and many other privileges.

The above information came out during the debates, exposed largely by the PM when he faced criticisms from his opponents. Saudi, Iranian, Kuwaiti and other neighbors interfered and the biggest was the USA, some by huge funds, others by pressure, and of course some by violence.

There was a curfew imposed on that day to any travel by any vehicle. Some of my nephews and family moved to an area three km away so all of us stayed in one house in the area where they should be voting.

My nephew and I woke up very early and walked round to the station where he was allocated to vote. The mortars started and some bombs went off far away from our area (south east Baghdad).

The streets were almost empty at that time, but as soon as the sound of the bombs was heard lots of people came out and walked to the polling stations. All walks of life, old and young, men and women and lots of very old and disabled in their wheelchairs.

It was a response I never anticipated. Kids claimed the streets and most of the major roads became a football pitch. Some young dads joined in the fun. Food stores were open and people talked to each other in groups on the street outside their corner shops (no big super stores).

Around lunchtime a mortar shell exploded two streets from our house and some of the splinters fell in the vicinity of the house where the children were playing. No damage done but it was horrific, as they were still very hot to touch. See above picture.

Some politicians claimed victory before the close of polls. Some started talking of forming coalitions and government! The same politicians shouted foul and cheating next morning without any count of votes having been announced.

I voted and it was simple – you show your papers and your name should be there on a register and they tick it. Some observers were there. They pointed to a room where I should go. There, I showed my proofing papers and had them stamped, my name ticked on their register and was given a stamped ballot paper, went to a booth, marked and folded the ballot paper and inserted it in the box, dipped my right forefinger in a staining ink and left the room. In the room beside the officials there were political observers, no words were heard from any.

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