Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Awaiting the elections with worries, dreams and hope...

Baghdad looks almost like one huge billboard now that one can easily get distracted by them from his original destination! As to drivers, these posters can cause serious troubles if a driver wanted to read each one (or set) of them while driving.

The noticed poster event today was that the United Alliance has begun to use the Ayatollah’s and other religious symbols in their posters again although they were instructed not to do that by other parties.
However, this time they didn’t claim their list to be blessed by the clergy instead they described the Alliance’s candidates as the “soldiers of the clergy”.

Naturally, the war of tearing posters or pasting other posters over them is getting more pronounced especially under the cover of night.
Sadly, violence keeps happening with the assassination of Ayad al-Izzi a prominent member of the Islamic Party.
Izzi was assassinated in Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a town that lies between Baghdad and Fallujah and has a population that is almost entirely Sunni and has a history of many attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi troops and officials.
The locations indicates that the assassination was an act of revenge carried out by Sunni insurgents or probably al-Qaeda and so far the Islamic Party hasn’t accused anyone in the government or the Sheat militias of being responsible for the attack.

In another act of violence, Allawi’s list lost another campaign worker in Hilla. It’s worth mentioning that two other workers were killed in Sadr city last week.
Allawi has voiced his condemnation and concerns and demanded investigations.
The Baghdad paper that speaks for Allawi’s INA party reported that several memos have been sent to the IECI regarding these incidents and added that Allawi has met the UN envoy to Iraq Ashraf Qazi and Abdul Hussein al-Hindawi the head of the IECI to discuss the measures that can prevent the occurrence of more electoral violations.

On the other hand, the Kurdish papers today brought a wave of criticism and attacks on Laith Kubba the spokesman of PM Jafari who recently accused the Kurds of taking a greater portion of Iraq’s resources than they actually deserve.
According to al-Ittihad paper that speaks for the PUK of Talbani, the spokesman of the Kurdistan regional government described Kubba’s allegations as “lies that lack legal support and aimed at destroying the reputation of the Kurdish leadership”.

At the same time, the public opinion in Iraq seems to view the December elections as a gate towards having a truly representative government and the turnout is expected to surpass that of the January elections or the constitutional referendum.

I recall that two weeks ago, we expected that the Iraqi Alliance would assume a change in strategy and according to an interview published on al-Sabah this morning, we weren’t wrong in our expectation; Nadeem al-Jabiri the head of the Fadheela Party (one of the 4 major components of the alliance) said in the interview that their goal is to achieve at least 1/3 of the seats of the Parliament as that would grant them the ability to block any alliance between other blocs.
The people in the Alliance realize very well that their chances to lead a government are getting smaller but they’re still in a state of denial, as one can conclude from al-Jabiri’s words “We have put in our plans that the Alliance shall win at least 1/3 of the seats so that no government can be formed without the Alliance…”.
I’d call is a dream rather than a plan because the other two major blocs that are most likely to be part of a government which are Allawi’s and the Kurds seem more inclined to unite among themselves after the elections to form the government rather than to keep power in the hands of the United Alliance.
None of this is for sure as of now but the recent friendly meetings between Allawi and the Kurdish leaders like the latest with Barzani makes one think that if these two blocs get enough votes, then the United Alliance will have no choice but to become the opposition.

There remains one big concern that is fraud and manipulation or intimidation of voters. These things-unfortunately-happen in almost any election process with varying levels and it would be na├»ve to claim that there was no fraud or intimidation back in January but we weren’t that worried about that then since the government was going to rule for only 6 months. This time the elections are about electing a government that will stay for four years, and this government will literally decide the direction where new Iraq will be heading.
The international community has to rise up to the level of the responsibility this time and has some guts to be actively involved in monitoring the elections…well, that’s if the world really cares about peace and democracy in this country.

Anyway, I am still optimistic about the future and although I do not think the next election alone can fulfill our ambitions but our people and our democracy matures a little more with every step like this.

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