With the terrorist attacks on the Iraqi people and their ambitions being escalated, the electoral campaigns increase all over Iraq, and more efforts focused on making this unique process succeed can be seen.
We've noticed in the last week an increase in the intensity of attacks on the ING and IP forces in an attempt to stop them from doing their duty in providing the required level of security to protect the elections and the voters.
It's been announced that 40 brigades from the Iraqi armed forces are going to be deployed to protect the elections centers through out the country in cooperation with the MNF.
During my last tour in the north I saw a lot of electoral education activities as well as campaigns run by individual candidates, individual parties or alliances; seminars, conferences and posters are all over the place. Some candidates decided to post their pictures in the streets while other parties preferred to keep a relatively low profile for their candidates and displayed only the number of the list and the political program of the list for security considerations in some of the tension spots.
Day by day, people get more involved in the process and dedicate more of their attention and time to follow the news and discuss the updates and events that are related to the elections and involved parties.
One person I met in Erbil said that he wasn't going to vote for any of the two major Kurdish parties until they decided to unite their lists and form an alliance. He said "it's obvious now that they're not thinking about shallow partisan interests. They're thinking more about the country's interests".
I learnt that the "Kurdish labor party" which was calling for an independent Kurdish state decided not to join the elections but I didn't see that the people in the streets are interested about this as this party is a small one with little impact.
In Kirkuk which is considered a sensitive point for many parties because of the mosaic formation of the population (Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Christians) the situation is different and everyone is trying to prove that he's the best and the more representative and I could sense that there's an alliance between the Arabs and the Turkmen to balance forces with the strong Kurdish alliance. Many Kurds have demanded to postpone the elections of the city board as they felt that it's not easy to compete with the Arabic-Turkmen alliance. Still, this demand didn't include the general elections as Iraq is considered one electoral region and local alliances that are limited to a certain spot will not have an effect on the big picture.
In the south, the tribes decided to contribute to the IP and the army efforts in protecting the electoral centers within their regions and this was agreed on after a meeting for the higher commission with the tribes' heads in Hilla and Nasiriyah.
There are also news coming out about a curfew for vehicles on elections day and the cell phones network as well as regular phones are supposed to cease working few days before the 30th of Jan.
Most of the parties are focusing now on the universities in an attempt to win the students votes and they're holding lectures and events in the universities to advertise for their platforms and lists.
In the city of Najaf, the Hawza suspended the activities of its school and asked the students to stop working on their researches and head to the provinces to encourage the people to vote.
The higher commission will grant all candidates a chance to speak through the media (papers, TV and radio) for a certain time for free and has asked the interested candidates to contact its offices to enlist their names on the broadcast schedule that is going to be coordinated with the Iraqi media.
Yesterday I received e mails from some of the readers asking for my opinion on a piece that was published few days ago on the Baghdad Burning blog, talking about the voters' registrations forms being sold (for 400$/form) to outsiders coming from Iran to use these forms to give false votes to She'at religious parties:
"Another problem is the selling of ballots. We're getting our ballots through the people who give out the food rations in the varying areas. The whole family is registered with this person(s) and the ages of the varying family members are known. Many, many, many people are not going to vote. Some of those people are selling their voting cards for up to $400. The word on the street is that these ballots are being bought by people coming in from Iran. They will purchase the ballots, make false IDs (which is ridiculously easy these days) and vote for SCIRI or Daawa candidates. Sunnis are receiving their ballots although they don't intend to vote, just so that they won't be sold"
I have heard of this stupid rumor months ago and in different ways too; actually I heard the same story but with the accusation directed to the Kurds instead of the Iranians.
I just want to clarify that these forms are used only to allow the voters to verify the accuracy of the information that are stored in the database and to correct mistakes if present and they shall be discarded after that. And any corrections made by the voter to this form will be matched with the information that exists in the database, i.e. this form is used to check for TYPOS AND MISSING DATA, not to build the database.
I think that our friend here has never seen one of those forms and that's why she doesn't know the exact function of them.
The interesting point is that river bend mentioned that the Sunnis have decided to boycott the elections and therefore keeping the forms so that they're not sold to the Iranians and here I wonder: who's selling to whom?
Would the Sunni sell the forms to the She'at? This contradicts any logical theory. If they Sunni decided to keep the forms because they fear that they would be sold to the She'at, would the Sunni sell the forms to Iran so that Iran buys false votes for the She'at!!??
Or would the Turkmen sell the forms to the Kurds?
Or would the liberals sell their forms to the radical Islamists?
I personally haven't seen or heard of anyone selling or buying these papers. Neither did any of my friends, family or anyone I know.
This is simply a rumor created and spread by terror groups or the "mukhabarat" of Saddam to convince people that the elections are not going to be fair and that it's useless to take the risk and time to vote.
I have always said that conspiracy theorists would contradict themselves as soon as they go further with their "analysis". One time they say that America has everything planned since the first day and then they come back and say that Iran can change the results of the elections!
River bend's biggest concern was:
"The first democratic elections were held in Iraq on January 29, 2005 under the ever-watchful collective eye of the occupation forces, headed by the United States of America. Troops in tanks watched as swarms of warm, fuzzy Iraqis headed for the ballot boxes to select one of the American-approved candidates...."
According to her theory, it seems that America succeeded in creating over 200 parties and convincing over 7200 people to register themselves as candidates!
Is it logical in anyway that the communists, radical Islamists, liberals, moderate Islamists, Arab nationalists, Kurds and Turkmen and a ton more of political currents are all "America's candidates"??
The people have chosen to hold the elections and our friends have decided to support the people in this choice and this combination is stronger than those who stand against the elections in order to keep an unelected government so that the have an excuse to fight it and keep it weak.
They know that the formation of an elected government means that the majority of Iraqis will be supporting this government and this will make it even harder for the terrorists to fight it because they will be fighting legitimacy itself and the nation itself.