Baghdad — Reporters on the Job: My first experience covering voting in Iraq was the referendum held by Saddam Hussein a year before the US invasion asking Iraqis whether to give him another seven-year term. He didn’t do a lot of campaigning. In the 2005 national elections – Iraq’s first – I’d talk to candidates who were too afraid to give me their names.
But this provincial election is a different story. There are posters on concrete walls, banners on lampposts, even a hot-air balloon advertising a candidate. As for actual campaigning, as in the West, a lot of that consists of, “What can you do for me?” Iraqis are looking for projects in their communities, influence in government departments, and jobs, jobs, jobs.
In lieu of that, a gold-plated watch is always nice. That was the giveaway at one election rally for potential supporters (but not reporters). Here, unless they’re envelopes of cash, token gifts are generally considered good manners and not a bribe.