Elections and Religious Tensions in Iraq
Al-Hayat reports that Shaikh Sadr al-Din Qubanji, a Friday mosque preacher for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, criticized “religious figures who doubt” everything and “threaten” to boycott the elections, which will “make manifest the rights of the Shiites.” He asked the doubters if they wanted “the Shiites to be killed and cut off yet again?” He said, “it is necessary to give the Shiites and the Sunnis their respective rights, in accordance with what they deserve. A If the Shiites rule in accordance with the elections, that is their right. For they are the majority and they have rights that will be made manifest via this election.”
The SCIRI leader was probably referring to Muqtada al-Sadr and the Sadrists, who had earlier threatened to boycott the election. When the Shiites in Bahrain boycotted the last election, it threw parliament into the hands of Sunni fundamentalists, and al-Qubanji knows this very well.
At the same time, Shaikh Mahdi al-Sumaid’i of the Association of Muslim Scholars preached before hundreds of worshippers at the Ibn Taimiyah Mosque in Baghdad. He said, “The Assocation of Muslim Scholars and the Consultative Council of the Sunni Community have issued a general call to the members of the group, to specify their position on the elections. With regard to the US attack on Fallujah, he said that a meeting would be called to address the “marginalization of the Sunnis” and the crushing of their personality. He said that during the Najaf crisis they had stood as a single man. He wants the Sunnis to show equal solidarity today.
Dennis Gray of the Associated Press reports that voter registration via food ration cards will begin Monday in Iraq.
Six weeks will be spent registering voters and political parties.
Authorities have used a Saddam-era database for food rationing to create an initial voter roll. Heads of households collect their 2005 ration cards from 548 distribution centers around the country starting Monday, and voter registration clerks will be waiting with fact sheets on each family. If there are mistakes, the voter roll will be corrected.
Combining voter registration with the popular food rationing system is expected to lessen the chances of attacks by insurgents, and it also provides a cover for Iraqis who wish to sign up to vote but might fear being targeted by those seeking to disrupt the election.
U.S. military units like the 3rd Brigade are responsible for protecting the election process, but they also must keep enough distance to counter charges that Iraqi organizers and participants are merely puppets on America’s strings.
In Baqubah they are finding that a third of the population is illiterate and 70 percent know nothing about the election. It is likely that the US military will have to preside over the elections, despite the officers’ desire to stay in the background.