Iraqis appear to have broken with the political establishment in response to what they see as rampant corruption and incompetence.

The biggest winner in Saturday's elections was the boycott movement, which was evident after it emerged that only 44.5 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

But those who did vote overwhelmingly cast their ballot for the Sairoun Alliance, a coalition of supporters of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), as well as the smaller Iraqi Republican Party.

Not many could have predicted the formation of such an alliance a few years ago, much less anticipated that it would end up resonating with so many Iraqis.

The unity of the religiously conservative Sadrist movement with the ultra-secular ICP seemed baffling to outside observers, but it appears to have created a successful synthesis.

One of those who appears to best typify the new politics is Suhad al-Khateeb, a communist who won a parliamentary seat for the religious city of Najaf - one of the most important hubs of Shia Islamic theology. 

Khateeb, who is a teacher, anti-poverty activist and womens rights activist, had not considered running in previous parliamentary elections.

"I didn’t run in the [2014] election, but I was part of a group that visited people all over the Najaf," she told Middle East Eye. 

"We visited them to listen to their problems and help them, in the slums of Najaf and the poor neighbourhoods. I had not thought about running in elections."

However, she was motivated to run on the Sairoun Alliance ticket this time around after garnering support from her colleagues and students.

"People visited me at school. They looked up to me and saw me as a role model of how a politician should be," she explained. "My colleagues, who support various political parties, respect me and support me."

"Someone who is successful in his work, as simple as running a school, could be successful in running a state institution."

During the Cold War, communism and Islamism were, for the most part, existential enemies. In the Middle East, the two were in regular conflict, with the former accused of being "godless atheists" and the latter accused of "clerical fascism."

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