Iraq's Elections: Progress or Peril?

On March 7, Iraq held a parliamentary election, its fourth election in five years. The Obama administration was hoping that an orderly and smooth voting process would bolster Iraq's stability and enable U.S. troops to withdraw as planned. Controversies erupted, however, over the now-reversed disqualification of several hundred candidates alleged to have ties to the Ba'ath Party. High-profile Sunni leaders threatened to boycott the elections, raising concern of a return to the sectarian violence that followed Iraq's 2005 legislative election. No party was likely to win a majority, and government formation may take months even after a smooth election. It may well become impossible to form a government if election fraud mars balloting.

What is really at stake in the Iraqi parliamentary elections? Will they contribute to the country’s stability or instability? Could these elections alter the U.S. withdrawal timeline? Is the international community prepared to respond to fraudulent elections? If the elections proceed smoothly, how might they alter Iraq’s political horizon? What do these elections mean for Iraq, Arab countries in the region, and the United States? These and other questions were discussed by Scott Carpenter, director of Project Fikra at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Carina Perelli, executive vice president of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems; independent Arab affairs analyst Kathleen Ridolfo; and AEI scholar Michael Rubin. AEI's vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, Danielle Pletka, moderated.

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