UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Iraq on Wednesday urged political leaders in the “crucial” post-election period to swiftly form an inclusive new government that works across sectarian and ethnic divides.
Jan Kubis told the Security Council it’s essential that Iraq’s new government “works as one” to pursue much needed political, economic and social reforms.
He also urged the country’s “political elites to draw the necessary conclusions” from the lowest electoral turnout in parliamentary elections since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.
Kubis said those conclusions are “the need for improved representation, justice for all, democratic accountability, and good governance void of corruption, sectarian quota system, nepotism and patronage.”
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The May 12 election was the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and the first since Iraq declared victory in December over Islamic State extremists after driving the militants from all territory they seized in the summer of 2014.
In a surprise result, supporters of a populist Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters attacked American troops in the years that followed the invasion, emerged with the largest number of seats won by a single bloc, 54. A coalition of paramilitary forces came in second with 47 of the chamber’s 329 seats while Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s “Victory” bloc took 42 seats.
Al-Abadi ordered the creation of a high-powered commission last week to look into alleged election irregularities.
Kubis stressed that all complaints should be addressed “expeditiously and seriously” and highlighted “the readiness and availability of United Nations electoral advice and expertise.”
Negotiations to piece together a coalition with a majority in the house that can form the next government began soon after the elections. The process in the past has lasted weeks or months and the probe of alleged voting irregularities could cause further delays.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley also called the post-election period “a key moment in Iraqi history,” saying the next government will make important decisions “that will set Iraq’s course for decades to come.”
The new government will decide “whether to truly value diversity and create opportunities for all of Iraq’s people” and “whether Iraq is serious about elevating female leaders,” she said.
“And it will be responsible for governing inclusively,” Haley said. “That means setting policies that allow Iraq to close the door on the extremism and the sectarian politics that have caused so much suffering before.”
She said “bold leadership will be required,” not only to keep the lights on and pave roads but also to respect and promote human rights, uphold the rule of law, and “be a force for stability in the region.”
“Iraq has taken major strides toward a more stable, secure, and democratic future,” Haley said. “Now Iraq’s leaders have the hard task of assembling their government and showing that they can deliver on the high expectations of their people. The United States will be ready to support Iraq in achieving this goal.”