Nadia Mahmoud of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq spoke to Solidarity.
The Worker communist Party of Iraq has decided to take part in the elections due on 16 January 2010. This differs from our stand on the previous election on 2005 where the party adopted an ‘effective boycott’ policy towards the election.
Why did we choose to take part in the election now? People believe that elections might bring in people who could make a change. Therefore we have to grasp this opportunity and introduce ourselves as an alternative that people can choose. All political parties are seizing this opportunity and putting all their resources into it to be on the top of the state. They are trying to reach out people and win their support although they have done nothing in the last 4 years apart from corruption and terrorising people. The bourgeois parties deceive, lie and terrorise people in the process of the election campaign, so we should go there and expose them.
We are not a parliamentary party. We do not believe that real change comes from Parliament. Real change needs no less than a revolution to shake and turn the whole system. But as there is no sign of a revolution in Iraq now, so we have to use what is on hand to push forward the people's movement towards freedom, equality and rights.
As a political party we have worked for the last 17 years for people’s rights. We have to work to represent people in the Parliament. If we to boycott the election, the elections will not stop, people will go to vote and the Parliament will take place anyway.
What we have on hand now is a parliamentary election where political parties compete with each others over “control". We need to get there, be with people, put ourselves forward as a party that could be voted for, and go to Parliament to push forwards the demands.
Having said that, our daily struggle to organise people will continue. We will fight inside and outside Parliament. We believe that Parliament on its own can not do much without people themselves showing up in the streets, factories and their suburbs to make their voice heard.
The election commission has registered about 286 parties, groups and individuals who will compete for 310 seats in parliament. Our electoral bloc or list is called the “Freedom and Equality List”. We will involve some independents who are not members of the Worker-communist Party of Iraq, from secular, workers', and women’s movements.
The main points of our election platform focus on social security and a welfare system. "Jobs or Unemployed Benefit” - this one of the most pressing issue in Iraq. We will also stand for political freedoms – the right to organise, the right to protest, a secular non-nationalist state in Iraq, equal citizenship rights, women's rights, an end to capital punishment.
Many parties speak about fighting corruption, and we're in favour of having a legal system in place to hold people to account. Corruption has become a widespread phenomena.. There are ministers of the ruling parties who have accused of fraud such as the Minister of Trade, Falah Al-Sodani, who resigned only one day before an investigation in Parliament began. The Prime Minister covered him by accepting his resignation so he could run away with what he did
The Minister of Electricity ran away with millions of dollars. The Minister of Education opened fire on students while they were sitting for their exams. All these and others went unpunished.
We oppose the Iraqi government's policies based on "joint venture" contracts with oil companies, and we oppose the intervention of the IMF in Iraq. The IMF is putting pressure on the government to privatise and to keep the prices of domestic oil and fuel high. Whether the economy is privatised or not, we demand basic welfare provision and social security. We look to build a popular movement to demand that the wealth created from industries like the oil industry is distributed socially. This is the main task before us to mobilise people around.
The conflict over Kirkuk won't be resolved, in my opinion, until the Kurdish question as a whole is addressed. We said that the issue should be decided by the people of Kirkuk themselves. They should choose whether they want to be administered by Kurdistan or Iraq for the time being.
The final election law isn't out yet, but a draft is being considered by parliament. The first draft stipulated that anyone less than thirty five years of age wouldn't be allowed to stand in the elections and that anyone without a university degree wouldn't be able to stand.
Our party stands against these restrictions. We've started a campaign to abolish those rules. They would bar young people and workers from taking part. Other parties have commented about this that the age should be brought to 25 years not 35. One wonders why to vote you can be 18 years old, but to nominate yourself needs to be 35 years old? Many other parties are in favour of putting these conditions to “protect” parliament from "illiterate" or “uneducated” people.
In addition to that we want "open lists", not "closed lists". That means that voters know who are the individuals on every "nominated list". They are better informed and able to vote for the nominees they want. That was not the case in the last election.
The general picture in terms of violence is getting better compared with 2006-7, but that doesn't mean violence has stopped. The violence now is more between the government parties in order to seize as much power as they can and to defeat their competitors.
Now, all the mainstream parties are trying to wind down the sectarian rhetoric and play up their nationalist credentials. All the Shia groups are looking for Sunni allies, and all the Sunni groups are looking for Shia allies. That's because they know that people won't accept sectarian slogans. People aren't buying it any more. People are sick and tired of all these sectarian conflicts. The Islamic parties, Shia and Sunni, understand this very well.
Economically; there is no precise unemployment figures and the situation's still pretty bad. There's no social security, so a lot of unemployed people rely on their families for support.
Water is a big problem. Turkey and Iran control a lot of the flow of water and are blocking the supplies. Electricity shortages are still not improved at all. The supply tends to come on and off every few hours, Fuel and gas still an issue. You will see huge queues of cars trying to fill up on petrol.
As regards the trade unions and the workers' movement, the conflict is intensifying. On 7 October, there was a peaceful demo organised by workers of the industry sector in front of Parliament. The security forces opened fire in the air to frighten the workers, and beat up a number of them and arrested others. But the workers kept themselves under control so no blood was shed.
The intervention of the government in the trade unions, business, including in the unions that are linked to the government, provokes anger among trade unionists. The government can not tolerate any independence from the trade unions.
The other danger I want to point out is that there is a tendency led by big companies and the USA to shift workers' organisations and trade unions' attention away from taking part in political life and towards "cultural" issues - to efforts to "improve cultural rights", to "take responsibility in the reconstruction of our country", to "raising labour productivity", to “human solidarity in labour relations”. They pour money into the workers' organisations and trade unions to work on this direction.
It is about demolishing the ground for any class struggle from workers against the capitalist system. It aims to keep workers' organisations busy with superficial un-harmful middle-class activities. Some trade unions have swallowed the bait, and step by step the “beneficiary" workers' organisations have become more accountable to their “funders” than to the people they are supposed to represent. The same is happening for women’s organisations. They need a "wake up" call.
By paying money to the mass organisations in Iraq, they aim to turn them to “civil rights organisations” or “charity organisations” which will in the final account pull the rug from under the feet of leftists, end any potential for communism, and leave the working class without a base of organisation. They are well aware that only communists can expose them and create a real danger for the capitalist system. No-one else can.