Four years after the last general elections in Iraq, persistent corruption suspicions hound top political figures but the real puppet masters and game makers remain hidden after completing the initial phase of the plan and killing every shred of hope for Iraqi citizens.
There was also a surprise by the appearance of the non-sectarian camp as a serious political contender that dared cross red lines set by the rules of the bigger game. Unfortunately, this camp was unable to continue the political confrontation for a variety of reasons, especially a lack of organised leadership.
The series of Iraqi political scandals began with relaying authority in 2010. It became obvious that the mechanisms of power-sharing and relaying have nothing to do with elections but have strong Iranian and American flavours.
The 2014 elections were essentially consensual. It was basically okay to switch the top heads and provide room for personal ambitions to express themselves but it was taboo to touch the grand scheme.
In the race for the 2018-22 parliament, we still find the same old figures who refuse to withdraw from the playing field. All the big names, such as Nuri al-Maliki, Haider al-Abadi, Iyad Allawi, Ammar al-Hakim, Osama al-Nujaifi and Muqtada al-Sadr (even though the latter has a special status) are present.
Of course, some new faces, always from the Shia house, have been injected into the tired and boring game. These new elements usually give a hint about the identity of the most influential playmaker in Iraq, namely Iran.
The game was rigged right from the beginning, following a well-timed plan and with the consent of a former partner in the crime, namely the Americans.
In perfectly choreographed speeches, the different stars play their cards. Maliki still holds to his old religiously inspired political programme. He never tires of repeating "Election Day is like judgment day."
Hakim has the wisdom to call on young Iraqi Shias to step forward and bear the responsibility of the coming phase but seems to have overlooked that those young people are ravaged by unemployment and drugs.
In a surprising move, Allawi chose to innovate by striking alliances with traditional Sunni leaderships. His discourse, however, has not changed. He is still pushing to move to reforming the political system.
Finally, Abadi is still trying to cash in on the victory over the Islamic State but his promises of fighting corruption produced no tangible results.
As for al-Sadr, his game plan is different. He has been pushing for fundamental political reforms for years. He also says the paramilitary forces of Al-Hashed al-Shaabi ought to be disbanded and to restrict carrying arms to state forces only. He has also made alliances with the civil forces in Iraq.
For more drama, the executive race includes three figures from the good old bunch: Maliki, Abadi and Hadi al-Amiri but the real power and its tools are in the hands of one single regional power armed with a far-reaching expansion plan.
On the level of the small details and the small fry, there is a great deal of flexibility allowing for a controlled sectarian colouration. The low-ranking foot soldiers, who are unfortunately all corrupt, are given leeway to compete with each other but, in the end, they all belong to the same stable, as they say.
Contenders in these ugly elections couldn't possibly go any lower. We are now at the level of buying votes and cheaply. There is a flagrant disrespect for the dignity of Iraqi voters. Political players stoop as low as manipulating or blackmailing those in need or those who have lost children or relatives among the throngs or refugees or accused of terrorism.
There are blatant attempts to influence voters through religion and sectarian leanings. Some candidates fill their campaign flyers and posters with Quranic verses and others resort to religious symbols.
Candidates couldn't care less about helping more than 2 million displaced Iraqis to return to their homes. Corruption scandals are routinely splashed on TV screens. Scandalised citizens have publicly denounced the rampant corruption in the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement. Even UN aid mysteriously vanishes.
Baghdad is covered with posters of corrupt candidates who have fled their original districts and chose to hide in the big city. These potential representatives of dirty Baghdad are least concerned that the venerable city was ranked as the worst place in the world to live in.
These bloodhounds racing for seats in the Iraqi parliament do not feel one iota for the Iraqi young people and widows they would be representing. Their main concern is deciding whose boots they will be licking for more power and money. All political parties are part of the scam. They have no wish to bring about any change as long as they feel in control of the playing field.
The general elections could have been the perfect tool to bring about real changes in Iraqi politics. For example, Abadi, the self-proclaimed anti-corruption warrior, could have come to an agreement with the UN representation in Iraq to keep anyone suspected of corruption out of the race but the genuine will to clean up the political game in Iraq is absent.
This is normal because the aim of the game since the beginning is to keep Iraqi citizens drowned in humiliation.