25 January 2005
Iraqi Political Parties Address Voters' Social Concerns
Health care, education, jobs, religion top list of social issues
By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington â€“ Health care, education and jobs are some of the chief issues on Iraqi votersâ€™ minds as they head to the polls, according to a recent survey of nearly 2,000 eligible voters from across the country, and political parties are crafting social agendas to address the votersâ€™ concerns.
More than 16 percent of those surveyed, in a poll conducted by an Iraqi polling firm, identified health care as the number one problem that the new Iraqi government needs to address, making it the most commonly cited concern.
Several parties mention the desire to work toward ensuring free universal health care in their party platforms, but perhaps the United Iraqi Alliance gives the issue the most comprehensive treatment.Â The United Iraqi Alliance pledges to provide care and medication to the sick, to build a sufficient number of clinics in order to meet the populationâ€™s health needs and to provide universal health insurance.
Its party platform goes on to address environmental conditions affecting public health, promising to protect the population â€œfrom all types of industrial and radioactive pollution that are harmful to the public health.â€
Although fewer voters identified education as their primary concern, nearly 24 percent chose improved access to basic education as the primary social issue that would win their support for a party or candidate.Â This makes education one of the most attractive issues for parties to address in their social programs.
Several parties propose programs to eliminate illiteracy and guarantee free education for all Iraqi citizens, but again it is the United Iraqi Alliance that offers the most detailed program.Â The party proposes to build more schools, institutes and universities, and guarantees free schooling at all educational levels.Â It also promises â€œto rewrite the curriculum so that it is appropriate for the new Iraq that we want and in accordance with scientific and objective principles.â€
The Turkoman Nationalist Movement also calls for free, compulsory education from the primary through the university level, but the party pays special attention to the educational concerns of minority communities, calling for the freedom to open private schools and the right to establish state-supported schools that provide instruction in a minority's language.
Jobs are also a major concern among Iraqi voters.Â Over 38 percent of those surveyed named unemployment as one of their top three concerns, and political party platforms reflect an awareness that parties must provide potential voters with hope on this issue.
The Gathering of Independent Democrats addresses the issue head-on, stating its ambition â€œto eliminate unemployment and poverty and invest Iraqâ€™s resources for the welfare of its people and to improve their standards of living.â€
The United Iraqi Alliance likewise promises â€œto provide work opportunities to all Iraqis who are capable of working.â€
The parties do not limit their attention to the working-age population.Â Many of them also address the issue of retirement pensions.Â The Communist Party pledges â€œto take care of retirees and raise their pensions to provide them with a respectable life and a comfortable old age.â€
The Liberal Democratic Party of Iraq also proposes to build a social security system for those families that do not have sufficient financial resources to support them.
The role of religion in the Iraqi state will be a major issue as Iraqis head to the polls.Â Nearly 42 percent of eligible voters polled believe that religion has a special role to play in the government, but just over 50 percent said that religion and government should maintain a mutual respect and not interfere in each otherâ€™s responsibilities.
When asked about the social values that would most attract them to a specific party, more than 23 percent said they would like to see the creation of a strictly Islamic government, and another 16 percent said they would like to see a party committed to ensuring the Islamic identity of Iraq.
The Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes appeals to the latter group in its pledge â€œto protect the Islamic identity of Iraq and its people.â€Â The United Iraqi Alliance goes a step further to assert that Islam should be recognized as the state religion.
The Communist Party takes a broader approach to the issue, calling for â€œrespect for the Islamic religion and other religions and guaranteeing the freedom of the faithful in their religious rites and practices.â€
The role of women in the rebuilding of Iraq is another important issue on the social agenda.Â According to Iraqi electoral regulations, at least one in every three names on each party list must be a woman.
Consequently, parties are stating their positions regarding the role of women.Â The Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes states that women should be given full rights.
The United Iraqi Alliance states its support for the participation of women in all aspects of public life â€“ political, economic and social.Â The Communist Party pledges that it will tirelessly defend the principle that women are equal to men.
Another major issue that many of the parties address is the need to confront the abuses of the former regime.Â The Liberal Democratic Party proposes establishing a â€œtruth-finding commissionâ€ to uncover the facts regarding Iraqâ€™s mass graves and other dark chapters of the countryâ€™s recent past.
The Communist Party calls for â€œcompensation for the families of the martyrs, the disappeared and the injured in the Anfal campaign, in Halabja, and in the mass graves as well as the heroes of the 1991 uprising, the Feili Kurdish youth and other combatants.â€
In addition to compensating the families of the individuals who suffered under Saddam Husseinâ€™s rule, the United Iraqi Alliance aspires â€œto rectify the injustice toward the regions that opposed the politics of preference and exclusion and deliberate neglect by establishing a budget and a special commission for their rebuilding and development.â€
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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