Iraqi candidates exchange government jobs for votes

Despite the Iraqi people’s aspirations for a democratic state, many politicians hand out government jobs during election season to ensure votes.

al-monitor An employee at an employment center receives files from residents seeking jobs in Basra, March 1, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Atef Hassan.

נושאים מכוסים

youth, voters, unemployed, job opportunities, iraq, employment, elections, bribery

מרץ 14, 2014

It's well understood that elections usually entail unusual political actions, aggressive behavior, mutual attempts to discredit others and dissemination and talk about scandals, as well as woo voters through promises and commitments that, for the most part, go unfulfilled.

But it's not acknowledged that elections are transformed into a market for government jobs, and that candidates from the various factions effectively control thousands of government jobs that are used to garner electoral votes.

No doubt, the candidates’ margin for lying is great, as is their ability to provide government jobs for those who vote for them or support their electoral campaigns. The reality on the ground suggests that some influential politicians do allocate dozens of job opportunities to clan elders or clerics in different regions, which are subsequently distributed among their clansmen or followers in return for votes in favor of the donor party.

As such, many young unemployed view election season as an opportunity to snatch a government job. They await the chance to pay a visit to candidates who open their doors and offices to constituents before elections, only to be turned away thereafter.

It's worth noting that most of the jobs handed out during election season revolve around positions with security or armed forces. This is an indication that both those institutions continue to be used, in some way or another, for partisan or electoral purposes.

The main problem with this phenomenon is that it exposes the level of confusion that pervades the performance of the state on an administrative level. It also reflects the continued influence of parties in the latter’s institutions and bodies, as well as confirms the reality that the mentality of “partisan quotas” continues to dominate the Iraqi political scene. This despite electoral slogans being replete with claims about combatting the quota system, nepotism and corruption.

Transforming government jobs into electoral votes is a clear form of corruption. However, at the same time, it is a form of organized corruption that exploits an inherent and sustained flaw in the Iraqi state. As a result, the prevalence of this phenomenon perhaps explains why Iraqi political forces have yet to allow the activation of the Federal Public Service Council, which has remained ineffectual for years, despite it being enacted into law in 2009 and amendments made to it in 2011.

The value of this council is that it confines and regulates the mechanisms by which state institution jobs are allocated within the scope of legal standards supposedly impervious to the will and desires of individuals or parties.

Irrespective of the fact that Iraqi forces continue to exchange accusations about the reasons behind the law remaining unenforced, the result is that the council is not exercising its powers nor has it truly been established. Meanwhile, jobs continue to be transformed into votes during election season.

When ordinary Iraqis speak about their loss of confidence in politicians, and when observers sense the general state of frustration in the ability of actions to effectuate true reforms in the country, politicians rise to defend their stances. They hold voters politically and religiously responsible for boycotting elections, while secretly accusing Iraqi society of lacking the required democratic background.

Yet, the fact remains that this social frustration is justified, in light of an inability to move forward in the building of a state. Instead of working to develop the state, parties are preoccupied with slogans, battles and political crises that are all transient in nature and not part of the core makeup needed to establish a state.

The Federal Public Service Council is an example of the Iraqi political class’ neglect of the foundation upon which an Iraqi state must be built, as it is a manifestation of continued attempts to exploit Iraqi voters, through jobs that are meted out with each election.

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