Endemic corruption is tied to ethnic power-sharing agreement

In the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, glossy election campaign posters are plastered alongside jungles of sagging electrical wires lining the alleyway to Abu Ammar’s home, the Associated Press reports.

But his mind is far from Iraq’s Oct. 10 federal election. The 56-year-old retired soldier’s social welfare payments barely cover the cost of food and medicine, let alone electricity. Despite chronic outages from the national grid, Abu Ammar can’t afford a generator.

When the lights go off, he has no choice but to steal power from a neighbor’s line. He doesn’t have the right political connections to get electricity otherwise, he says, a frail figure seated in a spartan living room.

In this country, if you don’t have these contacts, “your situation will be like ours,” Abu Ammar says.

In Iraq, electricity is a potent symbol of endemic corruption, rooted in the country’s sectarian power-sharing system that allows political elites to use patronage networks to consolidate power. It’s perpetuated after each election cycle: Once results are tallied, politicians jockey for appointments in a flurry of negotiations based on the number of seats won. Ministry portfolios and state institutions are divided between them into spheres of

In the Electricity Ministry, this system has enabled under-the-table payments to political elites who siphon state funds from companies contracted to improve the delivery of services.

The Associated Press spoke to a dozen former and current ministry officials and company contractors. They described tacit partnerships secured through intimidation and mutual benefit between ministry political appointees, political parties and the companies, ensuring that a percentage of those funds end up in party coffers. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisal from political groups.

© Copyright LaPresse