A friend in Baghdad sent me results of a poll conducted on behalf of one of the major political candidates running in Iraq’s election. 1,000 Iraqis across the country were polled over the past week by the firm Crosby Textor in conjunction with the independent polling firm ORB. According to the poll, the overwhelming consensus: “Iraq is heading in the wrong direction.” Some preliminary findings:
- In Baghdad 65% of people want someone other than Maliki as Prime Minister and fewer people say they are very likely to vote than elsewhere – just 22% compared with 64% across Iraq as a whole.
- When asked whether conditions for peace and security have improved in the past 3 months 57% of Baghdad voters say things have worsened and across all of Iraq more than half (54%) think things have gotten worse or not improved.
- 96% of voters want change in the country – with most wanting significant change. Maliki’s status quo is not enough.
- An average of 64% of voters have an unfavourable view of Iran – only 18% have a favourable view and 68% of all voters think that Iran is a bad influence in Iraq.
A few thoughts. It’s troubling that the poll found only 22 percent of Baghdadis said they were going to vote. Not surprising, as most of the violence over the past six months –and 7 years, actually– has been in Baghdad. Assuming that in Baghdad you’ll find your more secular, less sectarian, less religious-politico electorate, that means apathy in Baghdad could translate into ceding the vote to folks in more rural areas or more religious cities. Which would mean a government that keeps its strong Shiite Islamist, sectarian character.
It’s also interesting that folks in Baghdad don’t like Maliki–I’d be curious to know how he fared in southern Iraq(anecdote-wise, he seems to have a lot of street cred in the south still.)
Over the past three months, a majority thinks security has not improved or gotten worse. This is because over the past three months security has gotten worse. It also confirms the sense of unease in Baghdad–a prominent Arabic newspaper described Baghdad last week as “not look[ing] much different from when it was on the brink of civil war in 2006.”
Change! We can thank Obama for this question–change, every politician on Earth seems to believe, is in the air. But 96 percent! I wonder what result we’d get if we asked the question in this country, or say in a European country, or maybe even in a place like Iran. I would assume it wouldn’t be close to that high.
Speaking of Iran: 68 percent of all voters think Iran is a bad influence on Iraq. This number gets at the weird and complicated relationship between Iraq and Iran. In Washington, we often view it in black and white terms–Iran has a proxy government in Baghdad, Iran are the real winners in Iraq, etc. There is a good deal of truth in this viewpoint, don’t get me wrong. But there’s also a lot of anti-Iran sentiment in Iraq, and it’s a potent force to tap into(the recent dispute over the Fakka Oilfield was a perfect example.) Part of the problem is that the three political parties with the closest ties to Iran–ISCI, the Sadrists, and Maliki’s Dawa(though I think Maliki isn’t as close to Iran as we assume, though others in the Dawa party certainly are)–are overrepresented in the Iraqi government, ISCI in particular. ISCI has to be one of the most unpopular political parties in Iraq, a fact that was reflected when they got trounced last year in the provincial elections. But that’s the main issue behind the recent ban of 400 or so candidates–by taking out the secular Shiite and Sunni opposition, it helps ISCI and the Iranian backed parties keep their grip on power in Baghdad, despite their unpopularity.