Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On Iraq's political scene...

The political scene in Iraq these days is full of events with the parties feeling that time for starting campaigning is approaching. However these campaigns took the form of exchanged attacks and accusations without presenting programs or platforms for development and reform which are much needed.

Perhaps the only player who preferred to act quietly is Allawi who stayed away from the lights while making continuous tours to gather support from as many parties and trends as possible to form a mid-liberal trend with no sectarian or ethnic identity. Actually it seems that he's making some success in his efforts as many well known, yet smaller parties joined his movement like the National Democratic Party of Naseer Chadarchi and the Independent Democrats movement of Adnan Pachachi (both men were former GC members).

Maybe what's going to assist Allawi this time is that he didn't join the cabinet although encouraged to do so by the Sheat and the Kurdish blocs; this together with the poor performance of the current government when compared to Allawi's made Allawi seen as a better alternative by many Iraqis especially that a new alliance backed by the clergy is not likely to appear anymore after the intense differences that emerged between the major players in the present alliance namely the SCIRI, the Da'wa, Fadheela Party and the Sadrists and the differences reached the degree of armed clashes in some cases after which the Sadrists said they will be entering the next elections alone.

Chalabi being the founding father of the alliance sensed the critical situation which made him make an announcement saying "I made the alliance and I can form a stronger one..." this announcement reflects the depth of the problems this alliance is going through, in the first time Chalabi remained silent while he built the alliance and he tried to stay away from the media but now I think he's facing a tough situation that pushed him to adopt this daring attitude and stop being silent.

On the other hand, the clergy and especially Sistani who felt embarrassed by the incompetent government he backed is not willing to go through the same experience again; one of Sistani's aides told the New Sabah paper that the clergy feels disappointed by the poor performance of the government and the clashes between the allied parties. This was followed by Sistani's declaration in which he banned using the name of the clergy in partisan campaigns.

In such atmospheres critical of the governmental performance, the governing parties found themselves surrounded in a weak position and took a decision to respond by releasing a controversial report accusing Allawi's cabinet of massive corruption.
This report which took a lot of attention and coverage in the past few days took the political battle to the lands of the opposition represented by the Iraqi bloc of Allawi and the former defense minister Hazim Sha'lan who's joining Allawi's alliance now after he formed his own movement.

Everyone here know how dangerous corruption is and we said it more than once that it is just as dangerous as terrorism so attempts to fight corruption are welcome but the latest report was lacking a mechanism for a solution or even the precursors for a plan and was more like a shot taken to weaken the position of the political opponents.
Sha'lan said that he was innocent from those accusations and that he keeps the original copies of the contracts while the government used photocopied (maybe fake) ones in their investigation. He explained that he kept the originals away because he expected that Iran-who's backing this government-would try to "destroy him" because of his previous confronting attitude against Iran during his term as defense minister.
Probably what made him the first target for Iranian plots was his statement when he said last year that he would "take the war to the streets of Tehran".

Another thing to be noted is that this report which was presented by Hadi Al-Amiri (Assembly member and head of the Badr organization) came right after the September 15 session of the cabinet headed by deputy PM Dr. Shawis and deputy PM Dr. Chalabi. This session that lasted for more than 5 hours was not attended by PM Jafari who was outside the country.
Jafari was criticized by his own cabinet members for his recurrent absence in such a difficult time and for the "poor strategy and techniques" being used in fighting terror, some ministers also said they believed that this "failing" strategy is escalating terrorism rather than fighting it; in this regard, Abdul Kareem Al-'Nizi the minister of national security called on Jafari to either resign or admit his failure and allow a new strategy to be made.

Dr. Sami Al-Mudaffar the education minister attacked Al-Iraqia TV and accused the channel of being the Iraqi copy of Al-Jazeera and feeding sectarian divisions especially after Jafari intervened to change its and Al-Sabah's paper directing staff.
The state owned paper and TV station are already losing their popularity among Iraqi audience and some started comparing it with Uday's Shabab TV as a new propaganda tool for the government similar to the old TV stations owned and run by the past regime.

At the end of the meeting, the cabinet members agreed to form a committee directly connected to the ministers council to study political and security conditions in the areas where terrorism activity is high.
in Iraq, we have a saying that goes like this "If you want to bury an issue, make a committee for it" as committees are famous for being useless but they can silence the angry people and convince them that steps were taken to solve the problem.

Amid these various conflicts and terror attacks the Iraqi citizen looks more confused; it's not like the time prior to the January elections when we were confident that the people were going to participate strongly and challenge terrorism and that was the biggest motive actually; that is to prove we want democracy and we're not afraid.
This time too we are not afraid of going out to cast our votes but the challenge is different; we are afraid that that we might make the wrong decision and frankly speaking, the past experience with this government has rooted this fear.

No one now can say for sure whether the constitution is going to be ratified or rejected because many people still can't decide if the draft is good or not. However I think the constitution cannot get much more than 50% of the votes, still there are no guarantees.

Some people say they'll be voting with "yes" because they want to defy terrorism that is trying to stop the democratic progress while others say they'll be definitely voting with "no" because the draft isn't even close to their aspirations. The street is actually divided over this issue and other than saying that we're most likely to see a wider turnout than the January elections, nothing is predictable.

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