Thursday, April 28, 2005

Between two birthdays.

This morning, the National Assembly approved Jafaris cabinet in an exceptional session; at the beginning of the session, Hachim Al-Hasani the chairman of the assembly read Dr. Jafari's letter and enumerated the 36 names of the future ministers as well as those of the deputies of the prime minister.

The formation still has a few vacancies as 4 names have not been agreed on yet and the corresponding ministries will be temporarily handled by other members of the government; the most important of these ministries are the defense which is going to be lead by Jafari and oil which will be lead by Chalabi, both for a short period until new ministers are chosen and agreed on.
The ministry of interior which was about to create a conflict had been assigned to Bayan Jabor of the alliance block.

After the names were told, Dr. Hachim called the Assembly to vote on the cabinet but some members requested the cabinet formation to be discussed one last time before voting.
The majority refused this rejected but they also wanted Dr. Jafari to talk about how the final draft was reached.
Jafari spoke about the difficulties that accompanied his attempts to satisfy the different blocks and get their agreement and he said that "the colorful formation is a great victory for democracy" he also mentioned that negotiations lasted till the early hours of this morning and he assured the Assembly that the remaining vacancies will be filled within a few days no more.

He said that the relatively long time that was needed to form this cabinet wasn't a bad thing as long as the reason behind that was to "get real representation of the different segments".
Jafari stressed that efficiency was the main parameter in choosing the ministers as the greatest danger facing the government is corruption which we inherited from the past regime.
The international reputation and integrity of the chosen ministers was considered in the process as Jafari mentioned and he also said that he realizes that Sunni people didn't get their full chance in the election and attributed that to the terror threats in their regions and added that the Sunni should have a role in the government equivalent to their demographic position, not only to the results of the election as "they were victims of poor security conditions in their cities".
Jafari's speech was met with long applause.

The voting went on and 180 out of the attending 185 members approved the cabinet and it was clear that most of Allawi's block voted with the cabinet although this block refused taking part in the government.
Signs of relief were seen on the faces after the voting was successfully over.
Later, representatives of the parliamentary blocks were given the chance to give short speeches; the 1st one to speak was Abdul Aziz Al- Hakim who congratulated Jafari on this success and said:

"We, the members of the alliance block will practice our duty here in monitoring the performance of the government and we will be stricter in monitoring the alliance representatives in the government than on others"
This statement was also applauded by the audience.

He urged the government to take serious steps to confront terrorism which he considered the most dangerous threat facing Iraq in this phase.
Al-Hakim also stressed on the importance of identifying and eliminating the Saddamists who have infiltrated the government offices.
He called the government to accelerate the process of building reliable security forces to replace the multi national forces.

This was a clear signal that Iraq will need the multinational forces for the time being. Notice that he didn't call for a pull out and he used the term multinational instead of occupation.
Al-Hakim called for "respecting the Islamic identity of Iraq and respecting human rights" and asked the government to pay more attention to the areas that suffered more from neglect in the past.

He ended his speech by saying a few words of condolence for the family of the female MP who was assassinated a few days ago then he pointed out to the role of the clergy in supporting the political process in a few quick words.
After that Dr. Maasoum, the spokesman of the Kurdish block gave a short speech; he congratulated Jafari and said that the long time that was consumed in the process is a healthy indication which proves that there are no more solitary decisions in Iraq and that everything has to be done through conversation and discussion "today's Iraq discusses and addresses differences and the time taken in these processes is for the best of the public interest".

Hussain Al-Sadr, the representative of Allawi's block had also started his speech by congratulating Jafari but he said:
"Dr. Jafari mentioned that he had discussions with all the parties before announcing the cabinet but actually he didn't discuss the formation with our block as he promised to do; in spite of that we are going to back this government and as you all saw, we've voted for it and we will support any step that serves this country".
This statement also met by applause from the audience.

Then came Mrs. Jacqueline's turn who represents the Christian block in the Assembly and she blamed the government and Dr. Jafari for not giving the Christian Assyrian block its deserved role and she expressed her hope that Assyrians will get more fair representation in the future and in spite of that she confirmed that her colleagues will support the new government.

Later, the representatives of the communist party, the Turkmen and a few Sunni MPs had their time to speak too. Misha'an Al-Juboori was obviously critical of the cabinet and although his party got only one seat in the Assembly, Juboori was speaking in the name of all Sunni!
On the other hand, the representative of the national coalition (a Sunni group) was more realistic and showed support to the government and said "we couldn't actively participate in the elections because of terror threats; therefore we will be working hard to ensure broader participation in the next round of elections".
Here Dr. Hachim announced the end of the session and many MPs flocked to shake hands with Dr. Jafari and congratulate him.

Something I also wanted to mention which is not a surprise at all is that Al-Jazeera totally ignored today's session and while it allocated long hours talking about the delay in announcing the government in the past few weeks, the channel chose to ignore the important event and was in stead broadcasting a history report with the running news subtitle talking about violence and explosions!

For years before 2003, a day like this (the 28th of April) was one of the worst days of the year. We were forced to watch disgusting theatrical celebrations showing Iraqis happily and cheerfully celebrating Saddam's birthday. While today I was following Iraq's birth with true joy and hope and instead of trying to avoid facing the TV screen like I used to do in the past, today I was flipping channels like crazy trying to find more and more details about this great event.

May Iraqis enjoy their emerging democracy and may the world see the fruits of Iraqi freedom.


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