The result shows that Iraqis rejected the idea of one group or  party ruling alone

 

Election Results:

 It will have to be coalition

  

By Adel Darwish

 Basra- February  2005

 Last month's results of Iraq's first free and democratic vote delivered a clear three-pronged message from the electorate. First, with a near 59% turn out in the middle of one of the bloodiest insurgences, and threats by terrorist to assassinate any one dares to vote, the Iraqis showed their defiance and determination to vote for democracy and leave the past behind them. The second is a rejection of the way they were ruled in the past, by central autocracy made of well off, well to do, strong Sunni autocracy, as two oppressed ethnic groups, the Shia majority and the Kurds who make up about one fifth, collected between them the largest number of votes - over six and quarter million votes or 74%.
Third, and most important; any future government in Baghdad must be based on a broad coalition; no single faction, or even two, can rule alone.

The good news far outweigh the bad news for those fearing a Shia majority government in Iraq, the first since 1533. Not only it would, complete a giant geographical Shia crescent extending from the Mediterranean to Khybar pass, but also an Iranian style Islamic republic, is on the agenda.
As predicted, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance UIA, made of, mainly Shia, 16 parties, known also as the `Shia House`, won, a majority of votes, nearly 48% - with the Kurdish Alliance KA scoring 25.4% of the vote, with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi list IL, trawling third with 13.6%.

Allocating the 275 seats to the new parliament ( National Assembly) with a mandatory quarter the seats for women, is complex task under a proportional representation system. Counted unspoiled- ballot papers divided by 275 to mark a cut-off figure for a candidate to be in or out- 7471 candidates in 111 lists made of 75 political parties, nine coalitions and 27 independent candidates contested- by collecting one 275th of the total vote, or 29,132 votes to guarantee a seat. Votes below the cut-off figure are recalculated to be added to the successful ones, making it even more complicated. Voters are likely to be represented by those for whom they didn't vote, who are less bothered about local issues.
The Shia list UIA won about 140 seats, followed by the KA with about 75 seats and Allawi's IL 40 seats.

The horse-trading started, behind the scene, even before results were officially declared. As we went to print, it wasn't clear whether it was going to be a Shia-Kurdish coalition - mathematically the simplest as they could muster three quarters of seats between them, while only two third majority is needed to name the Troika, of President and two of his deputies who, would chose a Prime Minister. But it could be politically dangerous setting the scene for soliciting Iraq and a possible civil war.

Almost immediately, Kurdish leaders reiterated demands for the presidency or premiership -- their success made them the indisputable powerbroker in national politics, serving as a bridge between Shia religious parties and seculars from other ethnic groups.

Dr Allawi, on the eve of declaring the results of February 13, met with the PUK ( Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) leader Jalal Talabani, offering him the Presidency. Mr Talabani is a Sunni Kurd, which will please the Americans. An Allawi- Kurdish alliance with parties like : the Arab Sunni list lead by the interim President Ghazi al-Yawar that won five seats; the People's Union PU(Communist Party) with two seats and The Turkmans Iraqi Front TIF with three seats; will still be 59 short of the 184 seats needed to keep Allawi in office, as desired by America, most secular Iraqi's desire and Iraq neighbours ( except Iran).

Hence a coalition to force a reduction in Shia influence is an impossible task. It is likely to be an Israeli Parliament style coalition of many colours, making endless concessions and promises. It will always be a hung-parliament and only the Kurds hold the key, as an Allawi-Shia house alliance, leaving out the Kurds will be still four seats short, while the Shia are bending over backward to invite any willing Sunnis to participate.

The interim constitution gives the new National Assembly the task of writing a permanent one by August 15- but the parliament speaker and a majority of the chamber can decide on a non-renewable six-month extension. If the initial deadline is met, the draft will be submitted to a referendum on October 15 before fresh polls are held on December 15. It is this second election that will decide how Iraq will be governed in the future, and whether it will be a secular federation, a long standing demand by the Kurds, who have a defacto autonomy for 10 years, or a more ` Islamic' Shia majority with some lose accommodation with the Kurds. But the first hurdle is still how to establish a workable coalition.

Dr Allawi (and secular ) hope to split the 16 Shia factions in the UIA, because even if he was to include all the parties outside UAI, with some unimaginable compromises with National Independent Caders Elite NICE, lead by the fire-brand Shia cleric Muqtada el-Sadr who fought battles with the Americans and Iraqi forces can only gather 135 seats.

However, it is not all bad news for Dr Allawi and his US and British allies. Sources in Southern Iraq report a rapid break-up of Sistani's alliance days after the January 30 elections , as they came under intense pressure of competing for the Prime Minister's post by leaders of the main UIA list: Interim finance minister Adil Abdel-Mahdi of SCIRI (the Iran backed Supreme Council of the Iraqi Revolutionary Council); al Daawa Islamic party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari; former national Security adviser of the Interim government, Dr. Muaffaq al Rubai; and Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. Dr Chalabi was the darling of the Pentagon, Until Nine months ago, when American troops broke into his house and confiscating many documents as Washington accused him of supplying classified information to the Iranians. Chalabi's aids ridicule the charge saying, his call for de-Baathification of Iraq, angered many.
The Americans seem to have warmed up to the idea of getting him into an alliance with Dr Allawi on order to avoid a Kurdish-Shia coalition. Robert Ford, who is number two at the Baghdad US embassy, visited Chalabi and held talks with him early February.

It was an open secrete that ambassador John Negroponte and Mr Ford were doing their best to keep Dr Allawi in the job as a safe secular hand. Many secular Iraqis too, say they prefer to see him stay for the sake of continuity and security. Mr Ford's talks with Dr Chalabi, sources in Iraq say, was intended to persuade him to join a coalition led by Allawi, who is related to Chalabi by marriage. Dr Allawi, Iraqi sources say, has offered Chalabi, a high government office with guarantees that he will be treated as a senior partner in decision-making. Although, others warn that Chalabi, is likely to ask for more- loud whispers suggested he was seeking premiership, and making secrete deals with Muqtada al-Sadr and his clan.

Dr Chalabi himself, who has been loud in his invitation to Sunnis to be included, wouldn't confirm or deny saying that Sardis ( Sadr larger Clan ) have 21 seats within the UIA, in addition to his three NICE seats.

An Allawi-Kurds, Chalabi, al-Yawar - and smaller parties coalition, with Talabani as president, is seen as an attractive, one with a stabilising effect, with also lose deals with others who break away from Sistani's list.

President Talabani- a Sunni Kurd, would counter-balance the Shia dominated Parliament. This structure could also help draw the Sunni Arabs in, since their part participation in the vote, proves the wrong analysis of treating them as one block or seeing their hostility as uniform. They boycotted the election, as called for by their own clerics ( Council of Ulama), or through intimidation by Saddam Loyalists' and foreign fighters like Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi's, which cost them their parliamentarian representation. Their boycott was not water tight as a 29% turnout in the Sunni Salah-eddin province, and larger in the Suuni parts of Baghdad, where security was better. The interim constitution, gives them a veto on the new one if they felt they have been discriminated against, while all parties, including the Shia list, have invited them to participate in drafting the new constitution.

The incumbent president Yawar, or one of his Sunni men could be offered the important post of national assembly speaker. While Kurdish support for Allawi would guarantee a pro-American prime minister at the helm of the new government.

Sistani will certainly fight for a constitution that places the Sharia above secular legislation - or at the very least one that confirms Iraq's Islamic identity - but he is not as fanatical as his peers in Teheran about the creation of an Islamic republic. America is still haunted by the memory of how the newly-established Ayatollah Khomeini lead Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1980 effectively cost Jimmy Carter a second term by delaying the release of US hostages seized in the American embassy in Teheran until Ronald Reagan's inauguration in January 1981.

America has stumbled before in rushing to promote regime change in a troubled region, when aiding the Taliban to fight the Russian backed regime Afghanistan. Later, they became the launch-pad for al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks, forcing America to fight in a second regime change in Kabul.

The wind can also change direction. Secular-leaning Kurds are worried that the Shia clergy would try to impose their conservative southern ways on the more liberal north. The worries are also shared by many secular-minded Iraqis, who are sceptical of Sistani's assurance of avoiding an Iran style Islamic republic. Many believe will impose a conservative, religion-influenced legal code, if not a theocracy. His website says beards are obligatory, chess is absolutely unlawful, and romantic chat between young people of the opposite sexes, even by telephone, is forbidden until they are officially engaged. His followers also say ``ultra-western'' forms, like women serving in the police or premarital sex, should be banned, basing the law on a civil code `influenced by Islam' not taken directly from Sharia.
Many secular Kurds say they do not care what is banned in the Shias' holy city of Najaf, as long as they are not stopped from serving wine with meals and holding mixed-sex parties in their region. Some secular-minded Baghdadis, however, are warning of a nightmare scenario: A Kurdish ``sell-out'', by joining the Shia UIA letting conservatives impose their puritan code in the centre and south, in exchange for letting the Kurds keep the bitterly disputed, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk within a defacto autonomous Kurdistan. How forcefully- and widely-the clerics assert their social agenda, could determine the future unity of Iraq.
Sunni clerics'  Ulama tone has been more conciliatory. Sunni parties who boycotted the poll say they want to participate in drafting the constitution. The progress could be undone if the Shia clergy promote their agenda too aggressively. Many conservative Sunnis also want Islam to be the source of law but would differ with the Shias over many details. The Shias are not silly enough to make laws that appear to derive from a purely Shia interpretation of Islam, the insurgents may stir up Sunni sectarian sentiment, even when the nationalist ( Former Baathist) decide to give up the fight.
A sectarian insurgency, is the last thing Iraqis - and the Americans who are desperate for an exit strategy- want.
 


 The difficult task facing America  No smoking gun but America keeps pressure on * The Show Rolls on  * Hans Blix's text 14 Feb 2003  *  who will have the last laugh? Sorting out Saddam ?   The raid *.  Iraqi Official Statement   *. The View from Britain    * American policy on Iraq in disarray    * .Saddam, the popular dictator among Arabs.  . 


Further information:
Iraqi Mission in the UN.
British Ministry of Defence
The pentagon


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