Election News: No Ayatollahs, no Israelis
The Iraqi National Accord has lodged a formal complaint with the Iraqi electoral commission against the use by the United Iraqi Alliance of the name and images of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in their campaign posters. Sistani sponsored the negotiations that led to the establishment of the coalition list by 11 Shiite parties and numbers of independents. He has not, however, specifically endorsed this list, and as a spiritual leader would attempt to stay above the political fray. He almost certainly would not, himself, approve of the party using his name and image to get elected.
The basis for the complaint from Allawi’s party is that the electoral law crafted by the Americans disallows the use of religious symbols. Imad Shabib, the party leader of the Iraqi National Accord, also alleged that the United Iraqi Alliance had employed policemen drawn from paramilitary troops of the Shiite Badr Corps to put pressure on voters from the South. Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Badr Corps, denied the allegation. He also defended the UIA’s right to use Sistani’s image, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat. UIA pamphlets distributed to Shiite voters maintain that a vote for any other ticket would scatter Shiite influence and limit the number of seats Shiites hope to take in the new parliament.
Al-Hayat also says that the Iraqi electoral commission announced Thursday that Israelis of Iraqi heritage would not be allowed to vote in the January 30 elections “because we do not recognize Israel.” It had been speculated that Israeli Iraqis might be able to vote at expatriate polling stations, presumably in nearby Jordan. The head of the Israeli association of Iraqi Jews, Mordechai Ben Porat, had anyway expressed doubt that any of the 240,000 Iraqi-Israelis–only 29% of which were born in Iraq– were planning to go to Jordan to vote.
Farid Ayar said, “We welcome any Jews of Iraqi origin in the polling both, no matter what current nationality, on condition that they not be Israelis. The issue is absolutely not one of origin or religion, but simply that we do not maintain relations with Israel.”
Ella Shohat’s comments on being Jewish, Arab and Iraqi all at once (and how bewildering Americans find this intersection of multiple identities), are highly enlightening.
Only about half of Iraq’s 15 million eligible voters will likely cast their ballots on election day, according to Farid Ayar of Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission. Ayar says that such a turnout would not be so bad for Iraq.
Problem: The turnout will be higher in Shiite and Kurdish areas, producing an ethnically lopsided parliament/ constitutional assembly that excludes Sunni Arabs. Ayar’s statement is disingenuous.