New faces seek office in Ninawa elections

By Khalid al-Taie


Iraqis visit an electoral commission office in Najaf on March 10th to renew their voting registry records and issue new IDs to be able to vote in the upcoming May parliamentary elections. [Haidar Hamdani/AFP]

A number of younger political candidates are seeking office in Ninawa's upcoming general elections, in a departure from the norm that some believe will invigorate the political process and the province.

Candidates preparing to enter the political arena shared their strong desire for the province to move beyond the devastation caused by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and build a future where security and prosperity reign.

The next chapter of the province's history will require new blood and vitality, according to activist Fahad al-Yusuf, who is one of dozens of young Ninawa residents who have decided to run for office.

Al-Yusuf, 38, who holds a bachelor's degree in political science, told Diyaruna he hopes he will be given the chance to serve the people of his province.

Younger candidates have been largely absent from previous elections in Ninawa.

"This absence of young people from the political scene has had a negative effect on the situation in general in Ninawa and has had adverse consequences from a political, security and social perspective," he said.

The destruction caused by ISIS in Ninawa has prompted younger candidates in the province to reconsider their stance and enter the political race, he said.

Hands-on approach

Al-Yusuf has a list of campaign promises he hopes to deliver on if elected to office, which include "focusing on reconstruction and mending the wounds left in the wake of the terrorist assault".

"The upcoming stage requires us to leave our offices and go into the field so we can directly supervise the reconstruction efforts," he said, noting that youth are "the most active segment of society and best suited to undertake such tasks".

Al-Yusuf said he strongly supports co-existence and reconciliation as tenets of prosperity, noting that "we cannot reach our objectives without a strong foundation of stability and societal peace".

He called for an end to extremist and sectarian rhetoric, and stressed the importance of "correcting course and preventing a repeat scenario where terrorists could take over the province".

'Winds of change'

Lawyer Radhwan al-Nuaimi, 38, who is running in the upcoming elections, told Diyaruna he is hopeful they will usher in the winds of change needed by the people of his province.

"We went through a dark period," he said. "Three years of terrorism and darkness. Today, we hope that by taking part in politics, we are able to better serve our people."

"There are a lot of challenges ahead, the most prominent of which are rebuilding the infrastructure of the province and bringing back the displaced population and maintaining stability for them," he said.

This is "not an easy undertaking", he added, noting that "we are determined to overcome any obstacle and achieve the required tasks ahead with a team spirit and a carefully researched strategy".

It will be important to hold the elections, set for May 12th, on time, he added.

The Iraqi Electoral High Commission said it has received applications from 6,904 candidates who will compete for 329 seats at the Iraqi parliament.

Of those, 907 candidates are competing for 34 seats for Ninawa province.

The commission, which reopened its office in Ninawa in August, registers the candidates running for office and updates the voter database, as well as implements procedures related to voting and tallying results.

The number of younger candidates competing for office in the upcoming elections is "an important win for the political process", Ninawa provincial council member Hassan Shabib told Diyaruna.

The elections are open to candidates of all ages, he stressed, and remain the only democratic way for the people to choose their representatives.

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