Iraq holds provincial elections tomorrow, the first elections since the pullout of US troops, against a backdrop of widening violence, a record number of assassinations of political candidates, and deepening political division.
Although overall attacks are at roughly similar levels as they were for the last provincial elections in 2009, at least 13 candidates and two political party officers have been killed in targeted attacks in the past few weeks – a record number. Almost 150 candidates have so far been struck off the list of candidates, most of them for alleged ties to the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.
"It's a showdown," says Iraqi political analyst Saad Eskander. "They use 'legal' methods – expelling the ones they don't want or by force – physical liquidation. This is an extension of politics, not an extension of terrorism."