Falling Like Flies 53 Iraqi Parties

Falling like Flies
53 Iraqi Parties Withdraw from Elections

Xinhuanet reports that:

‘ According to the Al Furat newspaper, 53 political parties and organizations as well as 30 individuals have asked their names to be dropped from the election lists in a bid to show their rejection of elections under US occupation. ‘

There had been 105 parties and individuals, and 6 coalitions, participating in the elections. There were only about 30 individuals running as independents, and it appears that they have all now withdrawn. And half of the registered parties have also withdrawn, if al-Furat is correct. The individuals mostly never had a chance, since voters only get one vote, and few would have wasted it on a single individual when they could vote for an entire party list. So their withdrawal may in part simply reflect a realistic assessment of their chances. But parties at least had the potential of gaining a seat or a few seats, and their withdrawals are serious.

The same news service says that among those withdrawing is The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Tribes, a Sunni Arab party. The party, which groups 40 major tribes, said that the security situation had to improve before elections could be held. Xinhuanet said that it was also protesting the arrest of Shaikh Hasan Zaidan Khalaf al-Lahibi last week. He plays a role in uniting the tribes, and has his own party.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that, as well, Shaikh Hasan’s own party, the National Front for Iraqi Unity, has withdrawn from the election to protest his recent arrest. (This party is no. 101 on the list given here Wednesday of slates). At the Babil Hotel in Baghdad, a party official announcing the withdrawal complained that the Americans seemed uninterested in protecting candidates, and complained that the security situation made elections difficult at this time.

Al-Zaman reports that the large and powerful Dulaim tribe of Western Iraq has issued a statement condemning the killing by US troops of one of its chiefs, Shaikh Abd al-Razzaq Inad Mu’jal al-Ka’ud, last week, as well as the extensive destruction of life and property that has accompanied the US occupation in their areas. The Dulaim say that they want the United Nations to establish a fund to recompense them for their massive losses. They called for an immediate restoration of the pre-invasion Iraqi army and other security agencies. They complained that lack of security in Sunni Arab areas made voting out of the question, and said that anyway many parties were counterfeiting ballots. Of all the enemies you could have in Iraq, I would have advised the Americans not to make one of the Dulaim.

As Trudy Rubin reports from Amman, some of the Sunni Arab parties’ reluctance to participate may come from foreboding of Shiite victory, something to which many Sunni Arabs have not reconciled themselves.

Minister of State Adnan Janabi, a key aide of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has resigned to protest being detained and handcuffed by US troops at a checkpoint outside the Green Zone, where government offices and the US embassy are barricaded. It was revealed last week that Janabi was giving envelopes with $100 in them to journalists who covered the press conferences of the Iraqi National Accord, a party mainly made up of ex-Baathists that probably has little popularity in Iraq.

Wire services report 11 dead in Iraq violence, including two car bombings and a gun battle in Mosul, the assassination of the deputy police chief of Baquba, the burning of four bank guards and the shooting of a policeman in Baghdad.

Al-Hayat reports that the Shaikh al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, issued a call for Sunnis and Shiites both to participate actively in the January 30 elections. Al-Azhar University it the most prestigious Sunni seminary in the world, and its rector is widely respected. He is sometimes accused, however, of bending to government pressure, and his ruling of this week must be seen in this light.

Even as the NYT’s Christine Hauser praised the courage of Iraqi electoral workers, the newspaper’s editors published an editorial on Wednesday calling for the postponement of the elections.

Every path forward has costs. Postponing the elections leaves in place the increasingly unpopular Allawi interim government, populated by old CIA assets, which destroyed its credibility by acting as a cheering section for the US destruction of Fallujah. It could be argued that the Sunni Arab guerrilla war benefits from the perceived illegitimacy of the Allawi government, which has disappointed those who hoped it might restore order.

Postponement would risk radicalizing Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most respected leader in Iraq, who has already once demonstrated his willingness to call the faithful into the streets in the hundreds of thousands if he did not get his way on one person, one vote elections on a fast timetable. A postponement without his acquiescence would be dangerous in the extreme.

On the other hand, the credibility of elections in which the candidates have to remain anonymous to avoid being killed, and in which Sunni Arab candidates are increasingly unavailable, and in which half the lists have rushed to withdraw, is also very low. The credibility of the elections is not improved by the US killing or detaining and humiliating the party and clan leaders among the Sunnis who had still been willing to contest them, helping to drive them out of the race.

As usual in Bush’s Iraq, there are no good options here because the administration’s prior bad decisions have poisoned the most promising wells for the future.