Will voters turn out for this year's candidates?

Election campaign in Tal Afar shows blend of tribal dynamics and youth representation

TAL AFAR, December 13 — In the town center of Tal Afar, 26 candidates, including nine women, are vying for positions in the Nineveh Provincial Council. Representing seven diverse alliances with national, sectarian, and ideological orientations, the elections are witnessing traditional campaigning efforts to secure the trust of over 200,000 voters.

Among the candidates are those who have not previously held parliamentary positions,  as well as former deputies, and members of provincial, district, and regional councils. Notably, this campaign season has seen increased representation of youth, including Millennials and Gen-Z’ers, and some candidates who reside outside Tal Afar and are relatively unknown to the public.

According to Iyad Adel, an election monitor, this year’s elections are characterized by clan-based nominations, with each clan supporting its candidate. While previous elections were often influenced by sectarian considerations, some clans could not agree on a single candidate, leading to multiple competing alliances.

Campaign strategies continue to rely on traditional methods, including posters, gatherings, banquets, and social media posts. However, most candidates lack clear electoral programs that could convincingly sway voters in their favor.

The primary concern for Tal Afar’s candidates, though, is the potential for a repeat of low voter turnout, as witnessed in previous parliamentary elections, where citizens abstained from voting. Candidates’ offices are scattered throughout the city, and while some maintain multiple offices, citizens appear less engaged, demanding basic rights such as services, employment opportunities, security, and compensation.

Mohammed Abbas, a resident, expressed concerns that Tal Afar might struggle to assert its political presence, echoing the challenges faced in the previous parliamentary elections where only one woman secured representation through quotas despite the city having 198,000 eligible voters.

There is anxiety about the electoral and political impact on the security, social, and economic landscape of the town as the competition among candidates intensifies, potentially leading to conflicts and rivalries that may affect the well-being of the community.