Saturday, December 03, 2005

Iraq's election update...

We’re now less than two weeks far from the elections and naturally this is intensifying the exchange of accusations among the competing parties especially among the hot candidates for forming the next government.

To day there were two press conferences for Allawi and the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA for short from now on); Allawi focused on accusations of corruption on the hands of the current government and he named 4 reasons for leakage and wasting of national resources, all of which he attributed to the malpractice and incompetence of the government and he didn’t mention any role for sabotage or mismanagement on the part of UN or coalition authorities in wasting or mishandling Iraq’s money, apparently because he wants to show the government as the main defective entity. This came a week after he said that human rights violation are as bad as they were in Saddam’s time, another controversial accusation that is better taken with a grain of salt since it’s election season.

As a reaction, PM Jafari attacked Allawi for his meeting with commanders of the Iraqi Army a few days ago during a military parade and members of the United Alliance described the meeting as a flashback from the era of military coups.
Allawi defended his act by saying he took permission from the officials in the defense ministry.

The leader of the Alliance, Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem spoke proudly of the accomplishments of his government and Jafari attributed their failure to accomplish more tasks to the heavy legacy left by the previous interim administrations while Allawi accused Jafari’s government of ruining what his administration had accomplished during its term last year.
Al-Hakeem also mentioned that if they win the elections, they will show more care and attention to the needs and problems of women and youngsters, ironically, all of his list members who appeared in the conference were men.

The third major list that both of the above lists are seeking post-election alliance with is the Kurdish alliance. The Kurds know that their seats will be essential for the formation of the new government so they are currently standing by and watching without commenting while Allawi and the UIA exchange fire.
The UIA mentioned that the activation of clause 58 of the constitution which draws the road-map for the resolving the situation in Kirkuk will be among their priorities in an obvious attempt to seek the renewal of their alliance with the Kurds who have always considered Kirkuk one of their main issues.

The Kurdish major parties, the KPD and PUK are concerned about the possibility of a low turnout in the Kurdish provinces. There’s a feeling that many Kurdish voters are not satisfied with their political leaders’ policies and since they have intention to give their votes to non-Kurdish parties, some expect Kurdish voters will resort to remain silent and not give their votes.

The technical preparations for elections are already underway, the borders and airports are not allowing non-Iraqi’s into the country as a measure to stop or reduce the numbers potential foreign terrorists who might out attacks to disrupt the electoral process.

On the other hands, the Ayatollahs in Najaf announced that their offices will close for two weeks until the elections are over and they have instructed their students and aides to tour the cities to inform the voters about the details of the process and to encourage them to vote. So far the Ayatollahs haven’t publicly endorsed any particular list but one list, namely the UIA is making hints at the subject; Jalal Addin al-Sagheer in the Friday prayers made a strange statement. He said “the clergy declared support for the UIA once and that’s enough. We do not need to renew the support…the Quran was delivered to the prophet once not twice”!!
Other Sheat preachers encouraged Sheat voters to focus on one big list and leave the smaller ones. They didn’t name that big list but it is clear what they meant.

The war of words and posters is visible on the streets and it’s leaving its marks here and there with small paper posters being torn or pasted over and larger billboards being burned. The people who do this usually focus on burning the face of the candidate that is printed on the billboard, making things look even more personal.

There’s one major threat that keeps haunting every democratic practice in Iraq, that’s the participation of the Sunni cities. Although turnout levels in the October referendum were relatively high in these cities, the latest developments can possibly suggest otherwise.
The Sunni powers aren’t united among themselves, some are eager to be part of the evolving democracy while others are still making high demands in return for their participation or for dropping their weapons.
This explains the latest assassinations that reached a prominent member of the Islamic Party as well as a prominent cleric in Fallujah.

The divide in Ramadi in particular is big; we all saw how armed men wearing masks took over the streets for several hours while their supposed leaders were negotiating the situation with US and Iraqi officials. The city looked as it were under curfew which means residents were preparing themselves for the worst possibilities.
In my opinion it was merely a show of power by the militant groups and a message to the government and the US that elections in Ramadi can be disrupted and consequently the whole process would lose credit.
On the other hands, clerics in the city mosques are calling on the people to vote and a good sign is that they are not trying to push the people towards any particular list.

Election violence and violations of campaigning rules are still happening; a couple of days ago Allawi’s list lost their candidate in Amara/Maysan in an assassination while in Diwaniya/Qadisiyah, the city council shut down the city’s local radio station and they used a police force to stop the radio from opening again; a very worrisome incident that adds to our fears from a possible election fraud in the Southern provinces where certain well known parties and their militias had infiltrated almost every office.
Tough and efficient monitoring is crucial this time…we cannot afford to end up with manipulated results, not this time.

That’s it for today; more updates will be coming, hopefully on daily basis.

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