Provincial Election in Iraq
According to az-Zaman, the 40-person provincial council of the province of Salahuddin has elected a new governor, Falah Hasan Mustafa al-Naqib.
This story is of course a minor one, but I am paraphrasing it here because I think it sheds great light on provincial Iraqi affairs about which those of us here in the West hear only rarely.
The previous governor resigned just before going on pilgrimage to Mecca. Eleven of the 40 council members were also on pilgrimage, so al-Naqib was elected with only 29 present. One of al-Naqib’s rivals in the election, Abdullah Ijbarah, got 8 votes,and Thamar Sultan received 5. Al-Naqib won with 16 votes.
Al-Naqib’s father had been a major general in the Iraqi army in the 1970s and then the Baath government’s ambassador to Sweden at the end of the 1970s. He broke with the Saddam regime and became a political refugee in Syria. Al-Naqib himself has an engineering B.Sc. He is the 10th governor of Salahuddin in modern Iraq, and the article calls him the first to be elected. He is the first to hail from Samarra’.
The province (or “governorate”) of Salahuddin includes the city of Samarra and falls in the north-central Sunni heartland of Iraq.
The story raises many questions for me. Why was the vote held while over a quarter of the provincial council members are on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia? Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until their return? Why did the previous governor resign? Did he and the 11 others go on pilgrimage as a way of extricating themselves from an unpleasant political situation? Was this house-keeping in preparation for the national elections at the end of May? What was the size and shape of the electorate that selected the 40 provincial council members to begin with? How representative are they of Salahuddin, really?
One can only imagine what a Shiite leader like Sistani would think of this entire arrangement. Americans gathered “notables” [who might not have been representative] and had them select a 40-person council, and then part of that council elected al-Naqib, whose father was a major general in the Baathist army until he fell out with Saddam.
If the Bremer plan for Iraqi elections holds, it is this same council in Salahuddin that will choose 10 delegates to the electoral college that will in turn elect a transitional parliament.