Will violence derail Iraqi elections?

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Azzaman, March 25, 2014

Iraqi general elections are about a month away, but will they go ahead as planned?

The resurrection of al-Qaeda-linked militants, particularly in central Iraq, will certainly make the vote almost impossible in many areas.

For nearly three months, fighting has been raging in the Province of Anbar with violence mounting in other provinces like Nineveh, Salahudeen, Diyala and even Baghdad.

In Anbar, currently the most violent place in the country, Jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), are in control of nearly have the province.

The provincial authorities have already notified the Independent High Electoral Commission that under current circumstances it will be hard to go to the ballot or even set up balloting centers in at least 40% of Anbar.

“It is not possible to hold parliamentary elections in at least 40% of areas belonging to Anbar Province for instance in towns like Falluja, Saqlawiya, Nassaf and Amirayt Falluja as these areas are under the control of gunmen,” said deputy chairman of Anbar’s provincial council, Faleh al-Aisawi.

There are no police or any other form of government present in most of these areas and numerous others, Aisawi added.

Conditions may not be as bad in other restive provinces in central Iraq, but it seems one of ISIS’ major targets is to derail the elections.

Observers fear a surge in attacks by ISIS in the days close to the vote scheduled for April 30.

Muwafaq al-Nuaimi, a former national security adviser, said armed groups were bent “not to let Sunni areas take part in the coming elections.”

Nuaimi was specifically referring to the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh, Salahudeen and Diyala.

“The plan for the armed groups is to disperse Iraqi security forces,” he said. “They are trying to drag Sunni areas in Baghdad into the conflict so that those areas will not be able to take part in the elections.”