Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dispute over federalism resurfaces and some good news from Anbar.

After a few days off from political activity, discussions between the different parties and statements from politicians were resumed yesterday with some new factors and attitudes that were matured by the previous round of talks.

The first meetings after this short pause are expected to be low-scale and will not include the heads of blocs according to Jawad al-Maliki from the Dawa Party while Rasim al-Awadi from the Iraqi list said yesterday that their list will hold direct negotiations with the other winners and he pointed out that they will focus on the platform of the new government rather than on the allocation of cabinet seats. On the other hand Ali al-Adeeb from the UIA said that negotiations will be resumed today and that the UIA will concentrate on establishing balance inside the parliament reassuring that no trend shall be marginalized and added “we have nothing against the Iraqi list but we do have reservations against some of its members”.

In the same regard, Khalaf al-Ilayan from the Accord Front stressed that the Front will not join any talks about the shape of the government before the final results are announced and he described the previous and current round of talks as “pulse checking”.
Al-Ilayan’s statement shows that the Front and the Iraqi list share a similar attitude regarding the objective of the talks “we don’t care about the cabinet as much as we care about balance among powers inside the parliament and we are ready to cooperate with whoever care for the country’s interests regardless of ethnicity”. Al-Ilayan didn’t mention sects here which can probably translate as an invitation to the Kurds to ally with them.

In my opinion, the most important development of the day is the change in the tone of the UIA that clearly began to reject the idea of a national accordance government and want to replace it with a formula that relies more on election results.
Al-Hakeem said today that they have certain terms for forming the new government; one of those terms is to replace “national accordance government” with a “partnership government” which means that the UIA now want the government to include blocs other than them and the Kurds but with election results defining the share each one gets.
Al-Hakeem warned from using the term “accordance” saying that adopting accordance will announce the death of democracy in Iraq.

Friday preachers in Shia mosques spoke in the same direction; Jalal Addin al-Sagheer in Buratha mosque warned “from any attempt by internal or external powers to manipulate the election results” while Sadr Addin al-Qubbanchi said in Najaf that they reject any government based on compromises and stressed that everyone has to respect the outcome of the elections that gives the UIA the lead and he warned from a crisis if election results get ignored or manipulated.

I think those statements are a reaction out of fear from a change in seats-allocations after investigations are complete. Actually there’s unconfirmed news in Baghdad that the international investigation team has uncovered fraud as extensive as 10 seats.
I actually heard this news from a future parliament member who rejects the current results. My source said what they care about in their bloc is to spread the word and mobilize the debate about it but “we don’t expect the election commission to commit to the results of the international investigation”.

Mazin Shu’aib from the investigation team announced that there’s a good chance they will reveal the results of their work tomorrow yet he didn’t deny a possible delay until Monday “considering that there’s still some investigation work left to do and the situation depends on how much progress we can make today”.

Abdulhussein al-Hindawi from the commission said today that they will announce the results after the investigation team finishes their work and after the commission itself announces its own account on the complaints of Maram and other parties that rejected the preliminary results. But al-Hindawi pointed out that “the commission will not be obliged to adopt the report of the international investigators given the independent nature of the commission”. It’s also worth mentioning that a “transitional electoral committee” has been formed by the supreme judicial board to look into complaints and verify the results after being submitted by the commission.

Mofeed al-Jaza’iri from the Iraqi list said that “international investigators have met with representatives of the Iraqi list, Accord Front and Dialogue Front who submitted their complaints supported by documents and evidence that prove that fraud did take place. They investigators had also spoken to NGO’s that participated in monitoring the election process”.

Another important development is the escalating dispute over the possibility of amending the constitution; al-Hakeem said that their terms include keeping certain key articles in the constitution untouched especially those governing the process of establishing federations among provinces in middle and south regions of the country.
This very point is of great importance to the Accord Front as well, Adnan al-Dulaimi stressed that “articles that threaten the unity of Iraq must be amended…there’s an article in the constitution that outlines a mechanism for introducing amendments and we will use this article to change any article that can lead to dividing Iraq” al-Dulaimi added that the alternative to creating federations is to “extend the authority of provincial councils to enhance decentralization and avoid dividing the country into smaller states”.

Sources from Maram warned from closing the door on amendments saying that “if the UIA insists on rejecting amendments, this would cripple the negotiations”. In this regard also, Ali al-Sadoon from the Dialogue Front said that they are facing difficulties in convincing the UIA to agree to making amendments. Al-Sadoon also said forming the government is unlikely before holding the national reconciliation conference “as it will be the right place for fruitful dialogue and discussion and it will help everyone override the current obstacles”.

Meanwhile, there are some good news coming from Anbar.
Al-Qaeda is apparently being chased down and confronted by Iraqis in Anbar and Samarra according to a report from al-Sabah.
Mohammed al-Ubaidi is a citizen of Anbar who took part in a battle against al-Qaeda fighters said that people were enraged by the attacks that kill civilians in Anbar and other provinces and therefore have decided to form squads from the residents to rid Anbar from the foreign terrorists.
The reports mentions that several tribes’ sheikhs had a meeting in the home of a sheikh of the Dulaim tribe where they pledged to fight al-Qaeda and throw them out of the province. There are also news that some 120 al-Qaeda members have already fled outside Iraq after a series of battles between their cells and the residents of Ramadi and other towns and suburbs of Anbar.
According to the same report, similar measures are being taken by the residents in Samarra and have succeeded in forcing foreign terrorists out of their city.

Everyone is impatiently awaiting the final results and I think those who rejected the preliminary results are even more excited about it as their strategy depends on the final seat allocations and any small difference in the results can affect the policy of such parties. Of course they realize that they can’t catch up with the UIA but any change in seat allocations can influence the balances and the negotiations.

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