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Iraqi communists warn of arrests and intimidation as security services disrupt election boycott campaign

COMMUNISTS in Iraq condemned the detention and harassment of leading party members today as security services continue to block them from campaigning for a boycott of next month’s parliamentary election.

Groups of Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) activists have been set upon by Iraqi government forces while distributing literature explaining why people should refuse to participate in the poll.

Earlier this week, ICP members were prevented from speaking to members of the public in Mahmoudiya and held for more than two hours before being released.

“The prevention of our party from exercising its right to define and clarify its political position reflects a dangerous position on the right of political action and freedom of expression,” a party statement said.

The ICP said that the actions of the security forces in targeting its members across the country showed that there was “a directive to restrict the political activity of the forces boycotting the election.”

It warned of a “violation of constitutional and legal rights,” calling for all those concerned with protecting democratic freedoms to stand together in solidarity with the party.

The credibility of next month’s election has been dealt a major blow by the communist call for a boycott. 

Influential Shi’te cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said earlier that his organisation would not take part in the poll and that he had ended his support for the current and future government. He has since reversed that decision.

Iraq has been rocked by instability since a popular uprising began in October 2019 amid growing anger over government corruption and a lack of jobs and public services.

Two communist MPs elected in 2018 withdrew from the Iraqi parliament last year in protest against the subsequent government crackdown and the failure to prevent killings by armed militias.

More than 400 Iraqis are believed to have been killed by paramilitary groups that operate with impunity, despite Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi’s promise to bring those responsible to justice.

According to the ICP, there have been attempts to assassinate election candidates, while government critics have been kidnapped and “disappeared.”

ICP general secretary Raed Fahmi said that the party could not legitimise the system of corruption and that a referendum of its entire membership had ratified the decision to boycott the election.

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