Gang Fight In Karbala Over Elections

Gang Fight in Karbala over Elections
Al-Karbala’i: Voter Registration Cards Fall Short

Al-Hayat: The first victim of the electoral campaign in Iraq fell on Saturday in Karbala after a shouting match deteriorated into a knife fight between followers of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the cleric, Mahmud al-Husaini. Al-Husaini, who studied with Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr (father of Muqtada), opposes participating in the elections. Ali al-Arfawi of the Husain Hospital said that the confrontation led to the killing of one of Sistani’s supporters. Al-Husaini’s followers had put up posters on the walls of Karbala, attacking Sistani and crticizing the elections to be held at the end of January, 2005. Al-Husaini complained of “the lack of any proof drawn from Muslim canon law (the shari’ah) or from reason that indicates a duty to participate in the elections.” He warned of becoming mired in a political game. In contrast, Sistani insists that it is a duty for Shiites to vote in the elections at the appointed time.

Al-Zaman: Shaikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, the representative of Sistani in Karbala, expressed his concern about the first step taken to prepare the way for the holding of elections early next year. His anxiety was provoked by the voter registration cards. Al-Karbala’i said during his Friday sermon, which he gave at the mosque attached to the shrine of Imam Husain, “We were surprised by the number of voter registration cards that were distributed to citizens in Karbala. We discovered a significant shortfall among them, especially in the villages and the countryside . . . one of our subordinates informed us that he only received 20 cards when it should have been 149, which is to say, there was a shortfall of 129.”

According to Karbala’i, more than 5,000 families, or 100,000 citizens, did not receive their cards so far. This result, he said, suggests that a third of the residents of Karbala have been deprived of the ability to vote. He added, “We do not want to hold up the process, and we are not asserting that this matter is deliberate. But we shall wait and see what the relevant authorities, the high commission for the elections, and the United Nations, which have promised to hold free and fair elections without flaws, so that their legitimacy is unassailable.” He affirmed, “If this result is the same in the central and southern provinces, it would entail depriving a third of the inhabitants of those areas of their ability to vote, and would withdraw legitimacy from the elections, a matter that would reflect negatively on their representativeness in the world community.”

[The voter registration cards are being based on the old UN food rationing cards, which were assigned by household rather than by individual. The charge that the Shiites may be getting too few is plausible, since Saddam clearly favored Sunnis over Shiites. The Allawi government insists that there are mechanisms in place for persons to complain about and appeal any irregularities deriving from the food ration cards.]

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