IGC Fails to Agree on Election Formula
Al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat reported completely differently on the 4-hour-long Interim Governing Council meeting on Sunday. Al-Sharq al-Awsat said that the 25 members had reached an agreement on the need to go to the Iraqi people in selecting a new government. But then it quoted some members as saying that popular elections, while the best way to do that, might not be possible. Then it said that IGC member Raja’i al-Khuza`i said that the discussions would continue on Monday. So, in essence, all that was announced was that either a caucus type election will be held, or a genuine popular election will be held. This is not a compromise or agreement, it is just being mealy-mouthed.
In contrast, al-Hayat insisted rather more honestly that the Interim Governing Council continued to wrangle Sunday about ways to transition to some form of elected government by June, as they agreed in the Nov. 15 accord with the US. It said that many members were convinced that it would be difficult to hold a national referendum on any new Basic Law formulated by the IGC, or to hold popular elections for a parliament, before June.
IGC member Hasan Abdul Hamid told al-Hayat that “the dispute is not heated within the IGC, contrary to rumor.” He also denied that he had offered his resignation because of differences over how to proceed. (Abdul Hamid, a Sunni, is secretary-general of the Islamic Party, i.e. the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood. Earlier press reports gave his first name as Muhsin.). He added, “It is impossible, before the coming July, to establish a Basic Law by the will of the entire Iraqi people, because organizing elections requires a census of the population, as well as a guarantee of security and stability, and these factors are neither available nor possible right now. For this reason, we advise that it is enough to hold elections in the arena of the provinces, which will in turn appoint a convention responsible for electing members suitable to serve on the new transitional council that will succeed the IGC.” He noted “We Sunnis have our views, and our Shiite brethren, who follow their Object of Emulation, might have a different view. We are in a brotherly dialogue, discussing all the issues capable of being discussed, especially the issues around general elections.”
Nasir al-Chadurchi, another Sunni member of the IGC, told al-Hayat, “There has been no unanimous decision” yet. He pointed out that a delegation will go from the IGC to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in hopes of arriving at a unanimously agreed-upon formula.
These remarks are the most extended statement of the Sunni position on the IGC of which I know, and they reveal real opposition to Sistani’s demand for general elections and a general referendum on the Basic Law that will govern them. The Sunnis are afraid of a tyranny of the Shiite majority.
The Coalition Provisional Authority and the IGC would benefit from thinking bigger about how to avoid a tyranny of the majority. Effective such mechanisms would help remove the current logjam. The Working Paper of Fernand de Varennes for the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities is worth looking at in this regard, for the range of solutions he surveys. The “Neocon Kindergarten” of the CPA is extremely hostile to the UN, but that is the body that has been thinking about these issues, and it is silly not to avail oneself of that body of work.