Bremer and IGC to Defy Sistani
Paul Bremer has worked out a deal with the Interim Governing Council to stick with caucus-type elections rather than one-person-one-vote popular elections this coming May, in defiance of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who wants general elections. Sistani will be thrown a bone. The Basic Law crafted by the IGC, under which elections will be held, will specify that Iraq is an Islamic country. This recognition of Islam in any constitutional document is something Sistani has insisted on, and he will get it (though the Basic Law will also guarantee minorities freedom to practice their religions). In addition, it will be argued to the grand ayatollah that all this is in preparation for just the sort of elections he wants to see, in 2005. So he will ultimately get his way.
Az-Zaman reports that at a news conference for the Iraqi press, “Ambassador Paul Bremer, the civil administrator in Iraq, announced that the State Administrative Law for Iraq, which it is hoped will be completed by the end of the coming February, will affirm the Islamic identity that represents the majority of Iraqis, and will contain guarantees for the protection of individual liberties.”
He said that the IGC has created two committees. One is charged with drafting the Basic Law. The other is charged with making the arrangements for elections. He said that the accord (of Nov. 15) had been delivered to the UN. In answer to a question posed by reporter from az-Zaman, Bremer said that he did not foresee any change in the original agreement signed with the IGC. But he added that the administrative law will affirm the Islamic identity of Iraqis.
He declined to answer a question about the relationship of the IGC to Sistani, saying one would have to pose that question to the IGC.
He raised a number of objections to popular elections at this time, saying that there is no election law, no law governing the role of the media in elections, no recent and reliable census, no demarcations between voting districts.
With regard to selecting the members of the nationaltransition assembly, Bremer said that it will be accomplished through elections in caucuses, and that the members of the present governing council will surrender the administration to the transitional governing, and their role would end right there.
On the issue of security, Bremer said he had earmarked $3 bn. for strengthing the police and other security apparatuses.
What accounts for Bremer’s success in getting the IGC to buck Sistani? First, it should be remembered that Aqila al-Hashimi was assassinated. A Shiite woman diplomat, she was the tie-breaker between the Shiites and the others on the 25-member IGC. With her gone, and with no formal replacement yet announced (though a Shiite woman dentist has been spoken of), the IGC does not have a Shiite majority. It is evenly split between Shiite members and others. In addition, one of the supposedly “Shiite” members is actually a Communist Party official, who may or may not care what a cleric like Sistani wants.
All of the Sunnis, and probably the one Christian, wanted a caucus-type election, to forestall a tyranny of the Shiite majority. So these twelve (out of 24) were presumably with Bremer from the get-go:
Bahaaedin, Salaheddine – Kurdistan Islamic Union Sunni Kurd
Barzani, Massoud – Kurdistan Democratic Party Sunni Kurd
Chaderchi, Naseer Kamel al- – National Democratic Party Sunni Arab
Chapouk, Songul – Iraqi Women’s Organisation Turkoman
Hamid, Mohsin Abd al- – Iraqi Islamic Party Sunni Arab
Kana, Younadem – Democratic Assyrian Movement Assyrian Christian
Mahmoud, Samir Shakir – Writer, member of al-Sumaidy clan Sunni Arab
Nuruddin, Dara – Judge and Islamist Sunni Kurd
Othman, Mahmoud – Physician; independent Sunni Kurd
Pachachi, Adnan – Former foreign minister Sunni Arab
Talabani, Jalal – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Sunni Kurd
Yawer, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al- – Tribal chief (Shimr Tribe) Sunni Arab
Of the twelve Shiites, Bremer only needed one to defect to his point of view, but probably more than that did. Moussa is a likely suspect, as a Communist. My guess would be that the al-Da`wa members would stand by Sistani on this issue. But some of the independents are secular-minded and might be willing to demur from the grand ayatollah’s ruling.
Alawi, Iyad – Iraqi National Accord Shia
Bahr al-Ulum, Mohammad – Cleric from Najaf Shia
Barak, Ahmad al- Human rights activist Shia
Chalabi, Ahmad – Iraqi National Congress Shia
Hakim, Abd al-Aziz al- Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq Shia
Ja’afari, Ibrahim al- Islamic Dawa Party Shia
Khuzaai, Raja Habib al-* Head of maternity hospital Shia
Latif, Wael Abd al- Lawyer, judge; governor of Basra Shia
Mohammed, Abd al-Zahraa Othman – Islamic Dawa Movement, Basra Shia
Mohammedawi, Abdel-Karim Mahoud al- – Hizbullah Shia
Moussa, Hamid Majid – Iraqi Communist Party Shia origin
Rabii [Rubaie], Mouwafak al- – Neurologist; human rights activist Shia
Council resists powerful cleric
The Washington Post suggests a further dynamic, which is that the independents on the IGC are afraid they won’t be returned in a general election. They are trying to get Bremer to allow them to find some way to perpetuate their political careers, perhaps through an appointment process. He is resisting their demand to just stay around, as a sort of appointed Senate, after the new elections (as well he should!) He fears that the two bodies would just cancel one another out and nothing would get done. It isn’t as if the IGC has gotten much done as it is.