Iraq communists march on May Day, look to election

Hundreds of Iraqi communists marched in Baghdad for May Day, confident their joint list with Shia leader Muqtada Sadr can win elections held later this month.

Red flags and posters of German philospher Karl Marx were seen at Tuesday’s rally.

Demonstrators also waved the blue flags of their electoral list and chanted slogans like “Listen to the will of the people: reform and the end of corruption” and “The workers are the spearhead of the country”.

This marks the first time in Iraq’s history that Shia clerics allied with communists in a joint list for elections, which are scheduled this year for May 12.

The Marching Towards Reform alliance is made up of six mostly secular groups, including Iraq’s communist party and Istaqma, a party of technocrats backed by Muqtada Sadr, who suspended his Ahrar bloc and called on his 34 deputies not to run in the polls.

“It’s not unrealistic that our joint list gets 40 deputies and is in the lead. The feedback we receive is very positive,” Raed Fahmi, leader of Iraq’s Communist Party which currently has one representative in parliament, told AFP.

The joint list has 623 candidates across the country, with the exception of Kurdistan’s three provinces and Kirkuk.

“The list that comes in first could perhaps be us,” said Jassem al-Hilfi, who organised major anti-corruption protests launched in the summer of 2015.

His calculation is simple. In the 2014 elections, Shia religious parties won 104 seats.

But “today, they are divided into four, so no one will be able to surpass us if we get 40 seats, which is quite possible since the Sadrists already have 34 seats on their own”.

If the joint list wins, “we will ask to form a government with other components, and if they refuse to join us, we will be the main opposition force against the corrupt,” added Hilfi.

Jihadist groups in Iraq have targeted every election since the 2003 US-led invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein and paved the way for Shias to dominate every government since.

The Islamic State group has threatened to attack Iraqi polling stations and voters during parliamentary elections next month.

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