Saturday, December 10, 2005

Elections update.

We were thinking of taking a day off from blogging but there are some new developments concerning the upcoming elections that I think are important.

There have been several press conferences in Baghdad today for many of the heads of major lists and political parties.
The first one I saw was for Abdulaziz al-Hakeem head of the UIA. Al-Hakeem expressed his concern over the possibilities of fraud.
He apparently wasn’t worried about fraud in the thousands of voting station pread all over the country but he is more afraid from fraud in the main offices of the IECI when the boxes reach the headquarters and computers start handling the counting.

“There were serious incidents of fraud in the January elections” said al-Hakeem, a much unexpected thing to hear from the biggest winner in that round of elections!
This could be aiming at preparing the atmosphere for future complaints and conspiracy theories if his lists loses because logically, there are less chances for fraud to happen the closer we move to the center where monitoring is at its highest and strictest level.
Abdulaziz told his supporters that they “should not allow the loss of any single vote”. This makes one feel that the UIA are getting aware of the tough competition they’re about to face from other lists, particularly from Allawi.

Allawi had a press conference too, nothing impressive or new. He again emphasized the extreme importance of this election for Iraq and he urged Iraqis to be very careful in their choices. In my opinion he was trying to say “do not listen to what clerics say and follow your brains”.

It is noticed that so far, Allawi is the only candidate who is leading a professional campaign, and I mean really professional; the TV ads, the posters and the signs are very well produced and the words are carefully chosen and they’re attracting good attention among the people here.

On the other hand, Tariq al-Hashimi, the head of the Islamic Party and the number 2 man in the National Accord Front condemned the declaration of emergency law in Anbar and Mosul and also criticized the composition of the IECI saying that sectarian, ethnic balances in the staff of the IECI had been changed to serve the interests of certain parties.

Laith Kubba, spokesman for PM Jafari but who’s currently leading his own list of “National Peace” expected the four major lists-UIA, Allwi, National Accord and the Kurdish alliance-expected them to win around 200 seats in the parliament which I think is pretty a close estimation to what I also expect to happen.

An important statement came from Ayatollah Sistani’s office, the statement is endorsed by the top four Shiit clerics-Sistani, Mohammed al-Hakeem, Ishaq al-Fayad and Basheer al-Najafi-and it stated that the Ayatollahs do not favor any particular list over the others discrediting the previous reported statement in which Sistani allegedly urged the voters to avoid secular and small lists and vote for the religious candidates.
The document made clear that any statement not signed/stamped with the Ayatollah’s signature or his office’s stamp must not be considered authentic.

Preparation and security wise, the government announced a 6-day vacation starting on Monday and traveling between provinces will be banned from Monday through Friday too, vehicles will be banned from traffic starting on Wednesday the 14th.

Meanwhile, there was a security meeting for security officials in the nine southern provinces of Iraq to put a plan to “secure the election process”.
This could be true but also it is possible that this security plan is the first step in creating the “state of the south” as a prophylactic measure incase the UIA loses in the elections.
Add to this that there was a “coup attempt” in the defense ministry lately, Azzaman reported that people in the government applied pressure on the defense minister to fire 13 Kurdish commanders and high ranking officers including the chief of staff General Babakir Zibari. However this attempt was halted after “political contacts at higher levels were made to solve the crisis”.

Salih al-Mutlaq from the National Dialogue front had his own press conference too; al-Mutlaq who represents a secular pan-nationalist trend criticized both Sunni and Shiit lists for using religious symbols and clergies in their campaigns.

Moving to the issue of monitoring the election, the European Union has decided not to send election monitors; instead they will send three members of the European parliament to be in Baghdad during the election.
In the same regard, the “Ain” Iraqi election monitoring NGO said today that they have recruited 15,000 volunteers to monitor the process and that they will adopt the cross-monitoring system which means they will be sending people from the north to work in the south, from the east to work in the east and so on to make sure that people who monitor the process will not be affected by regional, sectarian or ethnic emotions.

That’s all for election news today and congratulations to the Iraqi national soccer team on winning the West-Asia league cup after beating Syria 3-2!

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