In an important step towards more credible and fair elections, senior cleric Ali al-Sistani announced through his office that he will refrain from receiving any of the political leaders running for office in the next elections and will reject the many requests made by many Iraqi politicians.
In my opinion, such steps constitute real support for the coming elections and a declaration on the part of the Ayatollah of his awareness of the previous mistake when politicians convinced the clergy into endorsing their lists which resulted in rendering the clergy liable for criticism from the public and affected its popularity rewarding the clergy with nothing but contempt from the people due to the poor performance of Jafari’s government.
People here are cautious (I mean the liberal people) from the interference of the clergy with the elections like what happened last time and I’ve discussed with many people that the outcome of last time’s experience will make it hard for the clerics to get involved in a similar mess again and tell them that there’s no need to be afraid this time.
The previous lesson they learned from the January elections and the aftermath was in my opinion enough to convince the Sheat senior clerics that they were wrong by interfering with politics while as to Sunni clerics, they will try their luck this time, apparently without making use of others’ mistakes and actually this is not something unexpected since we’re still in the early stages of learning how to accept and practice democracy and making mistakes will remain the main source of knowledge for some time. Here maybe I should refer to Salih al-Mutlaq’s separation from the main Sunni (mostly religious) list; this man has recognized that depending on sectarian emotions and affiliations isn’t going to take him and his party anywehere, I have reservations on this man though but I do encourage his choice and maybe his statement yesterday when he met Jack Straw about his interest in building a liberal state represents a positive sign to neutralizing clerics of both sects.
Don’t think I’m saying that the religious factor has been totally excluded or neutralized for good but I’m trying to say that it’s being reduced in magnitude and influence and the its interference in politics will undoubtedly be less pronounced next time and this is what I believe in. As a matter of fact, we have already seen signs indicating this change in the constitutional referendum where the voters turnout in the Sheat dominated cities was relatively lower when compared with January elections and the turnout in other regions despite the clergy’s call to participate in the referendum.
The coming election will certainly not be extensively governed by emotions like last time, well, at least when it comes to the Sheat, from what I hear and see here I tend to believe that voters are going to be more careful with whom to vote form.
And I’d like to remind those who persist to say that Iraq is a failed case that next month we will have witnessed three democratic carnivals within only one year, on January, October and one yet to come on December and I believe this alone is a striking proof on the accomplishments of a nation that has just emerged from the horrors of 35 years of tyranny and suppression and what adds to the value of the proofs of this success is that more of the community factions have joined the march and I want to remind you also that we’re human and we do err, one elections is not enough to state whether we’re successful or not and it is dead wrong to judge a country this way; we’re moving forward and nothing can stop the progress, this something I’m damn sure of.