Iraqi bishops call for calm as post-election tensions rise

Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako speaks at a press conference in Erbil.
Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako speaks at a press conference in Erbil.

Erbil (Kurdistan 24) - Chaldean Christian bishops in Iraq held a press conference in Erbil on Saturday in which they called on all sides to end rising political tensions as many of the votes cast in parliamentary elections held on Oct. 10 are appealed some ordered recounted.

This came as Iraq's Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) announced that it had so far recommended dismissing 322 of the official complaints it has received.

Read More: Iraqi election commission recommends dismissal of 322 appeals so far in national vote

Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, called on "all politicians to adhere to national and brotherly values, to give priority to the public interest over partisan agendas, and to sit together in a calm civilized dialogue for understanding and ending the current tension."

He went on to urge Iraqi officials "to expedite the formation of a government of national representation that is capable of achieving the demands of its citizens and avoid the situation slipping to its worst possible outcome."

The bishops said they considered that anyone resorting to threats of armed action was acting inappropriately, "since arms are for the defense of the homeland only."

Also on Saturday, the European Union condemned recent threats of violence against IHEC, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and others following the publication of preliminary election results.

Read More: EU condemns threats against Iraqi election commission, UN

“Such violent manifestations have no place in a democracy,” read a statement posted on social media. “The EU recalls that voting on election day was largely peaceful, orderly and well-organised.”

Pro-Iran parties, such as the Fatah Alliance that performed poorly in the election, have disputed the results and staged public protests claiming fraud.

Dr. Hamdi Malik, an Associate Fellow with the Washington Institute, wrote in an analysis piece that Iran-backed groups have blamed UNAMI and its head, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and the United Arab Emirates for their own failure at the polls.

“Once it became clear that the main muqawama (Iran-backed groups) lists were among the biggest losers, various groups accused UNAMI of conspiring to ensure this outcome and issued threats against the organization and Hennis-Plasschaert in particular,” he wrote.

An EU statement released this week read, “Any elections-related appeal or complaint should be addressed through existing legal procedures. It is crucial that all parties use these legal means to address any grievances they may have over the outcome of the polls,” adding that the EU looks forward to working closely with the next Iraqi government in the implementation of urgently needed reforms.

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council also condemned threats of violence related to the recent vote.