Religious Shiite Coalition Sweeping

Religious Shiite Coalition Sweeping South;
Allawi’s Showing Weak

[If you're in the giving mood this season, The History News Network" is a worthy cause.]

Al-Zaman [Ar.]/ AFP: 10-11 million of Iraq’s 15 million potential voters came out on Thursday, according to al-Zaman. Of Iraqis abroad, 320,000 voted (a relatively small proportion of those eligible).

The Kurdistan Islamic Union is said to have gotten 140,000 votes in three Kurdish cities. This party’s workers had been being physically attacked in Dohuk before the elections by activists from Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, but they seem likely to get some seats. Presumably Kurdish Islamists will tend to vote with the Sunni Arab religious coalition, and both of them may find some common ground with the fundamentalist Shiite United Iraqi Alliance.

In Mosul (Ninevah Province), the National Dialogue Front of Salih al-Mutlak and the Islamic Iraqi Accord are leading, with the Kurdistan Alliance and the secular National Iraqiyah list of Iyad Allawi trailing in most districts reporting early returns.

AFP says that in Najaf, its sources say 80 percent of the vote went to the United Iraqi Alliance (religious Shiite coalition), and that the turnout was 85 percent. Some early returns suggest some seats going to tribal leaders in the Middle Euphrates. It doesn’t much matter, since they will certainly vote with the UIA on anything important– they are close to Grand Ayatollah Sistani. For all practical purposes, the UIA will be able to depend on all 8 parliamentarians elected from Najaf.

The same source says that early returns showed the UIA getting 70 percent of the votes in the mixed Babil province. (If this result holds, it is a sign that the UIA may do very well indeed, since it means that the Sunni vote in the mixed provinces was disproportionately small. If the UIA takes most seats in Babil, Diyala and Baghdad, all mixed, then it will certainly dominate parliament). In Babil, Allawi’s National Iraqiyah list was getting 17 percent and the Sunni Iraqi Concord Front was getting 10 percent. There are 11 seats at stake in Babil, and the apportionment is roughly proportional, so that would give the UIA 8, Allawi 2 and the Sunnis 1.

In Karbala the UIA was getting 85 percent of the votes in early returns. Bringing up the rear were the Allawi list and the Mithal Alusi’s Iraqi Nation Party. The Kifa’ah Party of Ali Dabbagh came in fourth. The UIA will get at least 5 of the 6 seats in Karbala, and could get all 6 if the proportions break right for it.

The UIA was polling at 85 percent in Qadisiyah and 86 percent in Maysan. In other words, it was making a sweep of these 5 overwhelmingly Shiite provinces, as I expected.

These leaked results were not confirmed by the High Electoral Commission, which maintained that reliable results could not be reported for 2 weeks.

One thing seems pretty clear at this point: Iyad Allawi is highly unlikely to be prime minister. His people were putting around rumors that a lot of Sunnis would vote for him, or that the Shiites of the south had turned against the fundamentalist Shiite UIA. The early returns aren’t showing either allegation to have been true. As for Ahmad Chalabi, his Iraqi National Accord seems to have sunk without a trace as far as early leaked returns are showing. These “secular” candidates with close ties to the US CIA and Pentagon just are not very popular in Iraq, except among a thin sliver of the urban middle classes to whom US officials and journalists are most likely to talk.

Eric Black reports on the view of the elections among US-based political scientists and other academics. The AEI estimate he reports, that Allawi’s list will get 20% and Chalabi’s 5% seems to me highly unlikely.

Al-Hayat [AR.]: says that the big party coalitions are already celebrating their victory, even as the guerrilla leaders announced an end to their 3-day truce. And, Bulgarian troops are leaving Iraq, to be followed by the Ukrainians.

Al-Hayat says that the “secular” guerrillas say that they had declared a 3-day truce so that Sunni Arabs could put representatives in parliament, but that they would now return to attacking US and coalition troops. It is suggestive that the two Sunni politicians doing best in this round are Adnan Dulaimi and Salih Mutlak, who may well be the Gerry Adams of Iraq.

It quotes Abu Maysar (age 52), a former member of the Baath Party and a militia leader in Fallujah as saying, “We will continue our armed struggle as long as the Occupation and the agents it brought with it continue in power.” The secular guerrillas adopted a deliberate policy of encouraging a Sunni vote, and they pledged to protect the voters from reprisals by the Muslim extremists who opposed the electoral process. Abu Maysar maintained that the current Iraqi government is determined to wipe out the former Baath Party members. He said that if they just tried to play parliamentary politics, they would be like lambs to slaughter.

A local leader in the Army of Muhammad (made up of former Baath intelligence operatives) said, “This does not mean we are giving up our jihad. We consider that we will be, in the coming days, committing violence against the Americans and their supporters in the Iraqi army.”

A Baath communique quoted by al-Hayat depicted the elections as an American plot to divide Iraq along religious and ethnic lines, and pledged to fight until Iraq was liberated.

Al-Hayat says that the UIA is reputed to have swept Diwaniyah, Amara, Nasiriyah and Samawa, along with the provinces mentioned by al-Zaman, with a typical result of 70 to 90 percent. Even Allawi’s list admitted they had lost badly in Najaf, Karbala and Nasiriyah. Al-Hayat quotes a member of Allawi’s list trying to maintain that it did well in places like Mosul and Kut. But early returns don’t support this allegation for Mosul, and it would be bizarre if the UIA did not sweep heavily Shiite Kut.

Al-Hayat also says that the Iraqi Accord of Adnan Dulaimi and the National Iraqi Dialogue of Salih al-Mutlak are leading in Mosul. Dulaimi’s Iraqi Accord is also leading in early returns in Anbar and Tikrit.

It is alleged that Allawi’s list did very well in the center of Baghdad (around the Green Zone where government offices and the US embassy are located). Yawn.

AP reports that analysts familiar with the broad outlines of the voting in Iraq now believe that the Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, will be the biggest party in parliament, but that it may need to find a coalition partner to form a government with 51%. By the terms of the new constitution, if the UIA has 51%, the president elected by parliament by a 2/3s vote must ask it to form a government. Likewise, if the UIA makes a coalition with a smaller party or set of parties, and reaches 51%, it must be asked to form the government.

Turkmen in Kirkuk are raising questions about the fairness of the voting in that contested city, maintaining that thousands of “suspicious” Kurdish votes were allowed (presumably they are unconvinced that those Kurds were bona fide residents; Kirkuk has been flooded by Kurds claiming to have lost property there in the time of Saddam, and it may be that no all such claims are justified).

David Wallace-Wells rounds up bloggers’ reactions to the Iraq elections.

Iraqi activist Nermeen Mufti takes a dim view of the probity of the elections.

Igancio Ramonet looks at the torture issue in US politics.

Harold Bloom considers that “democracy” as a word has been ruined by the Bush administration.