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 didnâ€™t do a lot of campaigning. In the 2005 national elections â€“ Iraqâ€™s first â€“ Iâ€™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, â€śWhat can you do for me?â€ť 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 theyâ€™re envelopes of cash, token gifts are generally considered good manners and not a bribe.