Annan No Direct Elections Are Possible

Annan: No Direct Elections are Possible before July 1

The Washington Post reports the following: Kofi Annan did as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani asked, and delivered a considered judgment about whether direct elections can be held before June 30. Annan’s answer: No. That is not the answer Sistani wanted (see below). The US plan to hold council-based elections has collapsed–the Iraqis don’t want it, Sistani doesn’t want it, no one wants it. But Mr. Bremer insisted at a news conference on Thursday that 1) the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government will occur without fail by July 1 and 2) Islamic canon law will not be the law of the land, and the rights of minorities will be guaranteed in the Fundamental Law now being drafted by the Interim Governing Council.

The major issue now is how exactly a government will be erected that will take control of the country from the US this summer, and that will then guide Iraq to open elections by the end of the year or so. Sistani wants the United Nations Security Council to issue a formal resolution regarding the new government and setting a firm timetable for general elections. ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that IGC member Ahmad Shiya` al-Barak consulted with Sistani on Thursday and emerged to say that the grand ayatollah would accept a deadline for open elections of 3 months after July 1 (i.e. October 1). Al-Barak also said that there was no objection to devolving sovereignty for 3 months onto the Interim Governing Council (is he reporting Sistani’s views here)? There is some indication that if Sistani feels the elections are postponed for too long, he is willing to call his millions of followers into the streets. It would be interesting for the US political process if those demonstrations are happening in September and October because Sistani felt the delay was becoming intolerable.

In response to Mr. Bremer’s news conference, ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the radical young Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr threatened an armed challenge to the Americans, alluding to the 1920 rebellion against British colonialism and to the “Sha`ban Uprising” against Saddam of spring, 1991, if Islamic law is not made the sole source of Iraqi law. Muqtada’s office called Bremer’s refusal of Islamic law as the principal source of legislation a sign of “vehement enmity toward Islam.” Bremer’s statement was also denounced by Sadr al-Din al-Qubanji of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution In Iraq in Najaf, who said, “today, sovereignty is the property of the people, and this means we are not constrained by concepts imported from thousands of miles away.” Sistani’s chief aide in Karbala, Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, said, “Islam is the basis for legislation, and that is a natural right insofar as we are a majority Muslim society in contrast with the smallness of the other religions.” He added, “We must not forget an important point, which is that no one has a right to interfere in the wording of the constitution except the Iraqi people. The supreme Object of Emulation (Sistani) has made clear his insistence that the (final) constitution be drafted by a constituent assembly elected by the people.”

WP adds: “Violence continued Thursday as insurgents killed two American soldiers in a roadside bombing near Khaldiyah, 50 miles west of the capital, the U.S. command said.

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