Iraqi Election Campaign Begins: 2 Candidates Survive Assassination Attempt

Iraqis check the damage at the site of an attack involving a moped laden with explosives against a convoy carrying an Iraqi election candidate in the city of Kirkuk, a multiethnic flashpoint some 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Baghdad, on April 15, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Marwan IBRAHIM …

The parliamentary election campaign season began over the weekend in Iraq with assassination attempts against two candidates by unknown armed groups.

In the past few years, sectarianism and overall violence have plagued Iraqi elections.

“Given Iraq’s history of election-season instability, the upcoming elections could deepen existing tensions rather than unify the country,” the International Crisis Group reports.

The United Nations has condemned the attacks against the candidates, urging Baghdad to protect all contenders.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that the elections will be fair, the National reports.

Bas News, a Kurdish outlet, identifies the two candidates who survived the attempt on their lives as Ammar Kahya from the Iraqi Turkmen Front and Member of Parliament (MP) Abdul Karim Abtan from the National Coalition Bloc.

Kahya survived a car bomb attack in central Kirkuk, and Abtan escaped with his life after a group of armed men riding a civilian vehicle opened fire on his convoy.

“Kahya survived the assassination attempt and was unhurt, but a civilian was killed and ten others were wounded, including a driver and a bodyguard,” revealed Hamed Al-Obeidi, a Kirkuk police captain, notes Bas News, citing Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency.

Ahmed Khalaf, a local police captain in the Dora area, added, according to the Middle East Monitor:

Unknown gunmen riding in a civilian car shot at the convoy of MP Abdul Karim Abtan with pistols equipped with silencers. … MP Abtan was coming from an electoral rally for his list during an attempt to assassinate him, but he and his bodyguards were not hurt, and only a number of the vehicles were damaged.

In a statement, the office of Jan Kubis, the special representative for the U.N. secretary-general, explicitly denounced the assassination attempts, saying:

Kubis strongly condemns the cowardly bombing which targeted the motorcade of a Turkmen Front candidate for the parliamentary elections in Kirkuk, which caused a number of casualties.

This is very disturbing news and a matter of serious concern. This latest attack comes two days after a Turkmen candidate’s motorcade was shot at on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road. … I reiterate my call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure the security of the political forces, representatives, the candidates and the voters and urge extra vigilance during the coming period to foil the attempts to intimidate and to undermine peace and stability.

Until recently, the Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) controlled vast swathes of Shiite-majority Iraq.

The next government of Iraq faces the daunting task of rebuilding the country and dealing with one of the world’s most significant humanitarian crises post-ISIS.

Although Baghdad has declared victory over ISIS, the group remains a threat.

Sunni minority resentment against the Shiite-controlled government remains prevalent in Iraq.

Moreover, the country is still reeling from the clashes between northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad following the Kurds’ overwhelming approval of an independence referendum.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera reported that the political parties in Iraq had begun campaigning for the parliamentary elections in May.

“Nearly 7,000 candidates are competing for 329 seats, but they face tough challenges following the three-year war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group,” Al Jazeera pointed out.