Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Approaching stage two...

I’m going to start this with a correction, yesterday we said that the election commission was going to delay the final results for two more weeks but today it has been announced that results will be available on January 10th.

Aadil al-Lami from the election commission announced today that the international investigation team is in Baghdad now and had already participated in one of the commission’s sessions today where they observed the way the commission handles complaints as well as the way ballots are being handled.

Maram’s demands for redoing the elections in several provinces are most likely to be forgotten after the UN and-repeatedly-the election commission said that violations were limited and do not require a rerun. Yesterday Abdul Hussein al-Hindawi said again that elections cannot and will not be redone in any region.
All what Maram is going to get is a decision from the commission to ignore the results of ballot boxes in certain regions including some in Anbar and Mossul, i.e. Maram’s own regions of influence.

Negotiations between leaders of the major blocs seem to have reached an end in Erbil and the only two who appear to have stayed there are Talabani and Barzani while the rest have apparently went back to Baghdad to discuss the outcome of their recent talks in Kurdistan with their cadres and perhaps to prepare for the expected meetings in Iraq.
The Kurdish and Shia leaders have come out from their meetings with an agreement on guidelines that both parties will follow when negotiating with other parties like the Front and Allawi. Those guidelines include points like: rejecting terrorism, extending the powers of the president, applying federalism in the south and middle of the country and not touching [certain articles in] the constitution.

I’m not sure how the Sunni and Allawi are going to react to these demands set by the Kurdish-Shia alliance especially that at least one of them-the one concerning the constitution-is quite vague at the moment but Salih al-Mutlaq expressed his list’s willingness to show flexibility for the sake of national unity “but only to a reasonable extent”.

Allawi is still missing for the second time in too weeks! Most of Baghdad’s papers reported this morning that Allawi flew to Erbil but so far there’s no news of any meeting for him with any Kurdish leader.
Some news reports indicate that Talabani is planning to persuade Allawi to accept the VP position in a presidency council that will have extended powers compared to the transitional presidency council and it is thought that the American ambassador is pushing towards handing the security file to Allawi. However, the 2nd man in the Iraqi list and head of the communist party Hameed Majeed denied these reports.

In an earlier press conference for Adnan al-Dulaimi and Barzani in Erbil yesterday, al-Dulaimi seemed optimistic and he made one remark that I find interesting; he said “if we reach an agreement that all parties will accept, we will witness the end of violence”.
Of course it is not a secret that the Accord Front has direct or indirect relations with Sunni insurgent groups and making such a statement at this time reflects a change in the Front’s attitude from what we heard first when the preliminary results were announced; instead of threatening with escalating violence, the Front is promising to lower violence if they are given what they want.

Another interesting development was what the Islamic Party and the Sadrists have been talking about.
Alaa Mekki from the Islamic Party-which is as you might already know is the extreme Sunni side of the Iraqi political spectrum-Mekki revealed that his party and the Sadrists are about to reach a deal with the Sadrists-the extreme Shia faction-to form a unified bolc in the parliament!
Similar statements from the Sadrists support this news; Baha al-Aaraji whp’s the usually spokesman for the Sadrists said that there are talks taking place between them and the Islamic Party to reach consensus on the formation of the government and on “other issues”, al-Aaraji said they have preliminary agreement on 80% of the issues.

Moving to the other vital issue of nominating the new PM, it looks like the number of candidates-from the UIA-has declined from 6 to 3; now we have only Aadil Abdulmahdi from the SCIRI, Jafari from Dawa Party and Nadeem al-Jabiri from the Virtue Party.
However, Jafari’s trip to Kurdistan seems to have removed his name from Talabani’s blacklist. Talabani said today that “Kurdish disagreements with Jafari and their reservations on his term belong to the past…”.

It is fair to say that the first stage of talks and negotiations is over. There will be at least two more stages to follow before and after the final results are announced next week.

That’s it for today; stay tuned for more daily updates.

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