Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Politics in Iraq, a Mexican series!

There's a great deal of mysteriousness shrouding the government-formation talks between the political blocs in a way that makes these already lengthy talks and meetings seem to be taking forever in the eyes of the average Iraqi citizen.
"All they care about is getting more power for their parties" or "No one trusts nobody" is the most common remarks people here use whenever words like government or parties are spoken.

What's even more confusing to the 'street' here is the contradiction between statements of various politicians and officials and this disturbing contradiction can be even seen among spokesmen of the same party that a firm stance spoken of in the morning gets denied in its entirety in the evening by the words of another spokesman from the same party. This had given a strong impression that the negotiators themselves are so lost and confused and with them, the people find themselves lost, scattered and confused as well.

The political powers here have already consumed three and a half months for their debates yet every time they find themselves reaching a dead-end they blame it on an 'evil act aimed at disrupting the political process' and oh my, how frequent these 'evil acts' are!
Worst part is that they claim to be aware of the motives of those evil acts but they do exactly the opposite of what is expected from them and you find this or that party suspending its participation in the negotiations doing exactly what the 'evil doers' want and these evil doers can virtually be anyone.

I recently had the chance to meet a member of the new parliament during a meeting for NGOs and since this person is an old friend of mine I did not hesitate to go deep and ask a few rather embarrassing questions, something like: what the heck is going on?

"I swear to God I don't know!" the answer was.
"Don't be mean, c'mon give me some real answers" I insisted.
"Trust me, I know no more than you do, although I'm a member of this party and I'm officially member of parliament they do not tell us (the smaller members) of what's going on. News are restricted to the close circle around the boss while we at the peripheries depend on whispers and leaked info or rumors…just like you bloggers do".


People here are still urging politicians to get done with the negotiations and form a government and although they have given up the high hopes they had once of a government that can get all things right, they still hope that forming the permanent government can at least stop the deterioration in some critical aspects of life and prepare for putting things back on the right track again after the last few months that have been the roughest for Iraqis since Saddam was toppled.

Most of the debate in Baghdad today was about the alleged message from Bush to al-Hakeem telling him to replace Jafari with another candidate. The simple people I meet at work have made a simplified version o their own of this story that goes like this "Bush told the government that if they don't agree on a president, I will appoint that I choose"!
This is followed by a "whatever, maybe this can put an end for this mess" which reminds me that we still believe in firm and direct orders from a boss thinking that one shout or frown from him would be enough to solve the dispute while negotiations seem boring and taking forever, something not unexpected with all the stress and frustration Iraqis have to deal with.

On the other hand the local media was more interested in yesterday's negotiations that were resumed after being suspended for one day after the raid on Sadr's militia. Anyway, the latest sessions seem to coincide with a call from Sistani to the leaders of the UIA to go back to the table and accelerate the process.
It's clear that yesterday's meetings were no different from earlier meetings and was unsurprisingly followed by contradicting statements from who were just sitting at the same table moments ago.
The focus this time was the idea of increasing the number of the PM deputies from two to five or at least three with the new deputy being exclusively in charge of the security file and this suggestion is backed by the Kurds, Sunnis and Allawi who is a candidate for this position if an agreement is to be reached, while the UIA and especially the Sdarists are totally against this suggestion "we are against increasing the number of deputies but we can accept appointing an assisting for the PM" said one Sadrist parliamentarian and this is mostly because the Sadrists' greatest fear is to see Allawi in charge of any part of the security file.

So far the only post that has been semi-officially awarded to a politician by name is the president's which is going to go to Talabani as there are no other candidates and no one opposed his nomination as of now. Meanwhile the chairmanship of the parliament is most likely to go either to Tariq al-Hashimi or Ayad al-Samerrai, both from the Accord Front.

The premiership remains the toughest variable in this equation and there's no foreseeable solution for this issue in the horizon and today the newspapers were quoting statements from the Accord and Dialogue Fronts threatening to boycott the negotiations if the UIA did not present someone other than Jafari who seems to keep losing support to his fellow UIA member and rival Aadil AbdulMahdi who has become the new star of the media here.
AbdulMahdi is attracting increased attention from the media and there's high demand on him for interviews especially on the papers. Today I read his latest where he called for forming the government as soon as possible, enforce the laws and activate the constitution to put an end to the current state of chaos and put militias under control as well as dealing with the phenomenon of having Iraqi forces taking orders from neither of the security ministries. He also asked politicians-Iraqi and foreign-to be careful with their statements and study their words before saying anything that can "pour oil on fire".

Mr. AbdulMahdi through his latest remarks looks like trying to prove that he represents the moderate voice inside the UIA and that he stands as a balancing choice that can approximate the position of the extremes of the political/sectarian spectrum.
Actually it looks clearer now that the SCIRI still looks forward to replace Jafari with a candidate from their own. And this is also obvious from a statement al-Hakeem gave to the CNN (found it on the SCIRI's paper al-Adala) when he answered a question about Jafari by saying that "the UIA is till studying the matter and things will clearer in the next few day…we need more time to have this subject studied from all sides…".

Time is passing by and this is not in the interest of the politicians or the people who are getting tired of the way politicians are performing that many of them would tell you they've stopped following the news. One friend told me yesterday that he used to follow the political news every single day but "not anymore, these negotiations have much in common with those thousand-episode Mexican series, you can skip ten episodes and then come back and you will find things exactly where you left them!".

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