After nearly three years of bombings, kidnappings and assassinations that have resulted in the deaths of thousands since US forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, it is no surprise that many politicians have cited security as their top priority.

 

Dozens of the 231 political lists and independents contesting Thursday's parliamentary elections convey appealing messages designed to woo a population fed up with indiscriminate violence and sectarian killings.

 

"I will crush terrorism!" screams one poster over the face of a virtually unknown politician gazing down on a busy Baghdad street. Other posters vow an end to sectarianism and corruption.

 

Attracting voters

 

"The smaller parties are struggling to attract voters away from the larger dominant parties so they try to state they can solve fundamental problems in the hope of winning a seat or two," said political analyst Ghassan al-Attiyah, head of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy think-tank.  

 

Iyad Allawi promises to rid Iraqi
institutions of former Baathists

Aside from common promises of security and reconstruction, many parties and candidates are tailoring their manifestos to appeal to their own communities.

 

The ruling Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, has promised poor Shia in southern Iraq compensation and extra state benefits to make up for decades of neglect and persecution under Saddam Hussein.

 

The Alliance also says it will pour foreign reconstruction aid into areas of the country with the worst infrastructure.

 

De-Baathification

 

Former prime minister Iyad Allawi, running on a broad list of secular and tribal figures, has vowed to revise the de-Baathification laws, brought in to rid Iraq's institutions of former members of Saddam's Baath Party.

 

Allawi, briefly a Baathist early in his career, wants to return former army officers from the Saddam era to Iraq's inexperienced and struggling security forces.

 

Islamist Sunnis, who boycotted elections in January, are taking part this time and are campaigning strongly for the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces. The list promises releases of Sunni prisoners rounded up in fighter hotspots.

 

Demographic issue

 

"The smaller parties are struggling to attract voters away from the larger dominant parties..."

Ghassan al-Attiyah,
Head of Iraq think-tank

And the Kurds promise voters they will resolve the sensitive demographic issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and vow to expand the federal Kurdish region through peaceful means.

 

If voters are unimpressed by the manifestos of the main lists, they can always opt for some of the smaller parties on Iraq's fragmented political landscape.  

 

They could vote for the Democratic Movement for the Revolution Mutineers or perhaps The Country Sons' Gathering, whose manifestos were not immediately available.

 

And if names alone can bear promise, can they overlook List No. 834 - The Syndicate of the Honourable Gentlemen?