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Iraq's Sunnis are cautious, but hopeful about upcoming elections



HASSAN SHAM CAMP, Iraq (AP) – After the Iraqi minority Sunnis bore the brunt of a three-and-a-half-year war against the Islamic State, they will take center stage ahead of Saturday's parliamentary elections: Will the winners be more inclusive to the Sunnis ? whose marginalization has partially fueled the rise of extremists?

The Sunni communities have a mixture of hope and apathy. The military defeat of IS across almost the entire territory of Iraq has brought millions of lives under the harsh rule of the group, and electoral rhetoric was less sectarian in the days before that election.

Yet, the war has left more than 2 million Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, expelled from their homes and towns, villages and villages were heavily destroyed. The repair of infrastructure in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, both majority Sunni areas, will cost tens of billions of dollars, local officials say.

"The problem is that the land has been destroyed, but the change is in your hands last opportunity!" Candidate Abdulkarim Suleiman Nuaymi told a crowd of dozens of people settling in a small clearing amid the tents of a camp for displaced families had gathered.

Nuaymi, who lives with the Nineveh, is our coalition of identity and delivered a message that reflected the mood among the Sunnis.

"I'm ashamed of our situation," Nuaymi said. "The problem is that all these politicians, they just want to repeat what they have already done, what new (plans) do they offer?"

Nuaymi, a lecturer at the University of Mosul, said the marginalization of The Sunnis are due to US policy after the war that overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The American policy of cleaning up the political and military spheres of their Baath party members – mostly prominent Sunnis – left many of these Sunni communities without leadership. The movement should pull Saddam loyalists off base, but the scars in Iraq's political society are still visible.

Divisions within the Sunni political leadership have prevented the sizeable minority from actually exercising power in parliament. Instead, over the past 15 years, the Shi'ite majority has consolidated control over key ministries and branches of the Iraqi security forces.

Sunni marginalization came to a head under former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and strengthened the power of the Islamic State security forces. In the summer of 2014, extremists attacked almost a third of Iraq, plunging the country into crisis and causing al-Maliki to overthrow.

A few weeks after the IS Blitzkrieg, Haider al-Abadi took over the office of prime minister and promised to end the sectarian policy. He appointed a number of Sunnis to cabinet posts, but headed a government that was so fragmented that Parliament often stuck and made it impossible to legislate.

Despite the political difficulties in Baghdad, al-Abadi oversaw a military campaign against IS. and he declared victory over the group last year. Months later, however, the need for a massive reconstruction remains. Al-Abadi has tried to balance Iranian and US influence against other Shiite politicians closer to Iran.

The monstrousness of the reconstruction task, the deep-rooted corruption and the experience of marginalization have led some Sunnis to simply tell them

"Definitely not voting, even if my brother nominated himself I would not attend," said Nabil Subhi, a middle-aged Samirra Sunni who now lives in a suburb of Irbil. He explained that the Iraqi constitution, drafted in 2005 after the fall of Saddam, must be completely rewritten to have confidence in the government.

Asked about the current Sunni leadership, he said dismissively, "Whether they are Sunnis or Shiites, they are all corrupt."

Although some Sunnis boycotted past elections, they seem to be more interested in Shiites together. Shiite politicians are conducting campaigns in Sunni-dominated areas for the first time, and al-Abadi has welcomed Sunnis into his alliance.

Almost 7,000 candidates fight for 329 seats in parliament. No single alliance seems to be in a position to win a majority.

Sunni politicians have expressed concern that the participation of members of their community may suffer as most displaced persons in Iraq are Sunni. Election workers say that those who live in eviction camps can vote in special polling stations in and around the camps with an official ID card.

Those Living in Rental Housing or elsewhere Must Provide a Biometric Election

There is no exact data on the displaced persons, but Farhan al-Kiki, an election official in the Sunni city of Mosul, said only 67 percent of the population Received a Choice

Ali Hamed, another displaced Sunni living in the same suburb of Irbil, said the election was essential.

"We want to participate in the elections to make sure that we are not going through the same stages again," he said, referring to the rise of the IS and the ensuing war.

In Baghdad, the end of the war against extremists led to a period of relative security and stability that left many feeling that Iraq is headed in the right direction

Saad Ibrahim, a 47-year-old university professor from Baghdad, said He believes the coming leadership will be more inclusive.

"I expect alliances after the elections to attract more Sunni participation to the next government," he said. "The experience of our recent past shows that not a single political party is in a position to win a majority."

In Azamiyah, a majority Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad, 51-year-old Essam al-Obeidi reiterated Ibrahim's optimism.

Iraq "achieved relative stability despite economic difficulties," he said. But he was not sure if it would go on like this.

"We hope the government has begun to review its past mistakes so that waves of extremism will not reappear," Al-Obeidi said.

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Al-Saleh reported from Baghdad.


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