Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The December elections: The Equation…

Math wasn’t my favorite class in school but I do remember one thing for sure that is inorder to solve any equation it has to contain a number of variables and constants and the values of the constants will help find those of the variables leading to the final solution.
Elections in Iraq can be considered an equation and the above applies to it more or less. However, here we have much more variables than constants (almost all of which have changed since last January) and this makes the equation harder to solve.

Let’s consider that our main (if not only) constant is the Kurdish bloc that hasn’t undergone any major changes except for the separation of the Islamic Kurdish Party which was a relatively minor component of the bloc. Other than that, the goals, policy and areas of influence are the same and the public base remained hardly changed.
On the other hand we have variables and important ones like the Sheat alliance and Allawi’s list have changed a lot recently with the former shedding some weight and the latter gaining some.

We have also seen a new variable entering the equation; that is the Sunni Arabs who are definitely going to take a significant chunk of votes for their new lists.
So one can easily predict from this that the results are going to differ greatly from last time, but how? Is the question.

From what I hear and see on the ground I can say that the new government will see at least one major bloc bring replaced by one (or an alliance) from the current opposition. And here I’m speaking about the Sheat alliance in particular. We have noted more than once that this bloc has lost many of its previous components like Ahmed Chalabi and two other moderate/secular trends. Add to this a) the declining popularity of the SCIRI and Dawa parties and the rising complaints from the people (especially in the south and Baghdad) because of the weak performance of the government and b) there is no support from the Ayatollahs to this list so far and none is expected at all this time.
Well, I guess I can add a (c) here which is that the biggest two groups in the alliance; the SCIRI and the Sadrists already have a very fragile bond between them and they technically fought each other and burned each other’s offices not long time ago!

Meanwhile, Allawi (whose list won about 40 seats in January) have added more strength to his list by including the communists, ex-president Yawir and a few other smaller lists that collectively won about 10 seats in January. However, this list has the potential of winning up to 80-90 seats if more Sunnis voted for him and Yawir and if some Sheats choose to leave the SCIRI and Dawa and instead vote for Allawi who proved to be a strong leader in his 6-month term last year.

The Kurds on the other hand have neither renewed their alliance with the Sheat alliance, nor declared one with Allawi but they have made clear signs that they want to ally with the winners to form a government and they would not accept anything less than a president or prime minister post for one of their politicians.
Since the Kurds weren’t getting along very well with Jafari in the past few months and the tensions between Jafari and Talbani went to the degree of armed clashes between their guards and calls for resignations and because of their (the Kurds’) known inclination to ally with secular trends, I can see the new government consisting of Allawi and the Kurds and probably a secular Arab Sunni party.

This will inevitably push the parties of the Sheat alliance to change their strategy from dominating the parliament and forming the government to forming the opposition and that’s why I expect then to limit their ambitions to winning the essential number of seats (1/3 of the 275 i.e. 92 seats) that grants them the veto right in the parliament so that the ruling bloc would not be able to pass any law without an agreement with the Sheat alliance bloc.
There remains one variable that can not be estimated in magnitude or direction at the moment due to its complexity and because it’s a new addition to the equation, so I will leave this part to another post that will hopefully come soon.

I have said before that what made me vote for the constitution was the last-minute-deal that allowed for making amendments immediately after the formation of the new parliament, unfortunately we discovered later that the procedure would require the suggested amendments to be put for voting in the parliament in one package of suggestions which if approved would later find their way to a general referendum.
This way a veto from 1/3 of the parliament (that could be due to an objection on one suggested amendment) will halt the whole bill and this of course is not in the interest of the secular trends (and I was personally disappointed too) since they are the ones who have many ideas for amendments in mind unlike the religious trends that have written most of the constitution and put almost everything they wanted in it.

Anyway, there’s still hope and actually there’s a good chance that if Allawi and the Kurds win the majority then the new parliament can amend the constitution in a way that meets the standards of modern constitutions that protect the rights and freedom of all citizens away from the restrictions of religion and backward thinking.

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