Iraq Elections: Negroponte Optimistic; Shiites Enthusiastic for Reasons that would not Please Negroponte
The Chicago Tribune’s Liz Sly is back in Baghdad and has two important pieces out. One describes the confidence of US Ambassador to Baghdad John Negroponte that the Sunni Arabs will vote in the upcoming elections rather than boycotting them. She reports Negroponte saying,
‘ “Do they really want to opt out of an electoral process that is going to pick a national assembly that drafts the constitution and shapes the political future of their country?” he asked. “Or do they want to be represented in some way so that they have a seat at the table?” “I think once they realize the elections are going forward as planned, they’ll have to deal with that reality,” he added. “A number of them are coming round to the view that they should participate.” ‘
The problem here is that Sunni Arabs may only be 18 percent or so of the population. What would be a good turnout? At this point, could Negroponte really hope for more than 50%? That would be 9 percent of seats in parliament, which would not be enough to satisfy Sunnis as the new constitution is hammered out. And,it could be less (I think it will be less.) The proportional voting system put in by the Americans is almost certain to amplify the Shiite and Kurdish votes, and even the best likely outcome for Sunni Arabs is fairly severe marginalization.
The enthusiasm of the Shiites for the elections is the point of her second piece. But that enthusiasm is apparently not actually good news for the Bush administration. She reports a widespread attitude among Shiites:
‘ “This election, for me, will be the happiest moment in my life, because it means we will end the occupation,” said Ahmad al-Asadi, who sells mobile phones from a little store alongside the Kadhimiya mosque, a Shiite shrine. That’s how Shiite leaders are pitching the vote: as a chance to end America’s military presence in Iraq peacefully, through the ballot box. It also is a chance for Iraq’s long-downtrodden Shiites, who account for 60 percent of the population, to throw off centuries of oppression by the Sunni minority and take a commanding role in the country’s government. ‘
It does seem likely that if the US beats down the Baathists enough to permanently defang them, the Shiites are likely simply to toss the Americans out after they take power (assuming that there is a real election, and Allawi is not simply installed as a US puppet [again]).
Rory McCarthy of the Guardian tells us more about the Shiite mega-list being formed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, which will probably dominate the elections. The negotiations appear to have gone exceedingly well. His report is the first indication I have seen that the Fudhala (Virtuous) Party will join the Sistani coalition. The Fudhala are an offshoot of the Sadr movement, who reject the leadership of Muqtada al-Sadr. I wouldn’t have called Fudhala’ moderate.
Az-Zaman reports that a communique of dubious soundness was issued by a shadowy organization called the Mujahidin Brigades, claiming to have found and killed the assassin of Shaikh Faidi al-Faidi, who was killed in Mosul last week. Al-Faidi had been a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, which has called for a boycott of the Iraqi elections. They called the assassin Kamran Abd al-Sattar (a Kurdish name) and accused him of working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. That Sunni fundamentalists in Iraq are blaming Kurds for this assassination is a very bad sign.
The same article says that the Association of Muslim Scholars has called for a boycott of the US military, especially of the Iraqi national guards. It says that dozens of Iraqi military are resigning from the national guards, as a result of the AMS call. Since the AMS is also calling for a boycott of the elections, this is another sign that can be characterized as “not good.”