A New Hope

The 2018 Iraqi Election

By Monique Mansour

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On Saturday, May 12, Iraqis casted their votes for the nation’s fourth election since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the days prior to the election, on May 10 and on May 11, Iraqis living outside of the nation had the opportunity to vote. Shoki Konja of Franklin, Michigan, and Director of the Chaldean Voice Radio, was one of those people. He voted in Warren, Michigan at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chaldean Church. “It was an incredible, exhilarating feeling to be able to vote in this election and to have some sort of say in the process. My stained finger is proof that there is hope for Iraq,” said Konja.

“I’m very invested in the Iraqi election and in the results that will follow,” said Konja. “There is no doubt that Iraq needs to be rebuilt. Iraq was once a wealthy country, rich with natural resources. Unfortunately, corruption has destroyed the nation. We are in an extremely decisive moment now that ISIS is continuing to dwindle in numbers. We can kiss Iraq goodbye if we don’t come together now in this very moment.”

Currently, the Iraqi government provides for 329 parliamentary seats. Out of those 329 seats, five are specifically allotted to parliament members of Christian faith. It’s important to note that the Christians can come from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds –including, but not limited to –Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Armenians, to name a few.

“I don’t think it’s right that only five seats are allotted to Christians,” said Konja. “Chaldeans are the original Iraqis and our collective voices should play a major part in the efforts to help rebuild Iraq.”

Konja made it a point to research the candidates running for the five seats. He was very impressed by the Chaldeans competing for them. “All of the Chaldeans were from scholarly and highly educated backgrounds. Engineers and other professionals. This is great news for us because these are exactly the type of people we need to represent us and play a major role in the reconstruction of our beloved Iraq,” said Konja.

It was evident that for Iraqi-Chaldeans living outside of Iraq, the election did not feel as urgent, relevant, or relatable as the voter turnout was at the lowest since 2003. According to the Brookings Institution, there was only a 44.5 percent voter turnout.

“Even though we may be Chaldeans living in the United States or elsewhere, we still have our people back home in Iraq and they’re depending on us. Never forget, as Chaldeans, we’re the original people of Iraq. We still have a lot of Christians there. We need to rebuild our villages and our churches. We need to desperately raise our voices. They need to be heard in Iraq, in the Middle East, and around the world,” said Konja.

Konja and others closely watching the election were disappointed by the voter turnout. “The numbers were lower than what we expected, for sure. I can understand why Iraqis felt disillusioned and powerless, especially after all of the turmoil and corruptions they’ve been through and have witnessed first-hand. Hopefully, as the years progress, we’ll see development and advancement in Iraq, and the election numbers will rise in the future,” said Konja.

According to news reports, the final results show that two of the five seats allotted for Christians have been won by Aswan Salem Sawa in the electoral province of Nineveh and Burhanuddin Ishak Ibrahim in the province of Baghdad; both are said to be a part of the Babylon Brigades movement. Rihan Hanna Ayoub won the seat in the province of Kirkuk, Immanuel Khoshaba won the seat in the province of Dohuk, and Hoshyar Karadag Yelda won the seat in Erbil.