Allawi: “Pockets” Will not be Able to Vote
Michael Georgy of the Scotsman reports from Baghdad that interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi admitted on Tuesday that “pockets” of Iraq won’t be able to vote on January 30 because of poor security. I suspect the pockets amount to about 3 million persons.
Georgy also says that Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari is trying to hold a meeting with the Sunni Arab political leaders who are calling for a boycott of the elections, on January 16, in hopes of opening the sort of national dialogue that might allow more Sunni Arabs to participate.
Jordan’s ambassador to the US, Karim Kawar, is among the few officials in the region or in Washington to admit the truth: The January 30 elections in Iraq have no real validity. He estiamtes that 40% of the country won’t be able to vote.
An election in which the names of the candidates in the various lists are still not known 18 days before the polls open is a sick joke, not an election. What could it possibly mean, to vote for anonymous politicians? And note that they are anonymous because otherwise the guerrillas would kill them. Again, I think the election has to go forward, but I just don’t expect much from it. The resulting government will be of questionable legitimacy, and the guerrilla war will if anything intensify. The elections are like all the other Wizard of Oz spectacles put on by the Bush administration in Iraq since April 9, 2003 — the appointment of Garner, the appointment of Bremer, the appointment of an Interim Governing Council, the capture of Saddam, the “transition to sovereignty,” etc., etc. Each of these was supposed to be some magical turning point and the beginning of sunshine and rainbows, and instead the situation has deteriorated every single month for the past nearly two years.
(For the slates running in the elections, identified only by their heads, see below.)
An unreleased State Department study of last month summarized by AFP last Thursday found that:
Only 32 percent of Sunni Muslims are “very likely” to vote.
Among Shiites, 87 percent said they are “very likely” to vote.
Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs consider the elections “legitimate.”
Only 12 percent of Sunni Arabs think the elections will be completely fair.
52 percent of Shiites think the elections will be completely fair.
61% of Sunni Arabs are very concerned about their family’s safety.
24% of Shiites are very concerned about their family’s safety.
Among Shiites, 76% would boycott if a figure such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani told them to.
Only 32 percent of Sunni Arabs said they would boycott simply because a religious figure asked them to.
88% of Sunnis would stay home if they felt voting would put them in danger.
38% of Shiites say they would stay home if their are threats of violence against polling stations.
‘ The poll was conducted in the mixed ethnic cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk; the mainly Sunni cities of Baquba and Tikrit; the Kurdish cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah; the mid-Euphrates Shiite cities of Hilla, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Kut and Karbala; and the southern Shiite cities of Basra, Nassiriyah, Ammara and Samawa. ‘
The Intelligence and Research division of the State Department conducted the poll, and they are highly professional.
This poll should be given much more weight than the findings of a local poll published in the pro-Iraqi government al-Sabah newspaper that indicated:
‘ Will the security problems cause you to?
Not come out and vote the day of elections = 18.3%
Come out and vote the day of elections = 78.3%
No opinion = 3.4% ‘
Rightwing pundits like David Brooks have taken up this al-Sabah poll as a cause for optimism. But they ignore the I & R findings. The Baghdad poll is flawed for several reasons. First of all, it was limited to Baghdad. Baghdad is about half Shiite and has a million Kurds, and both Shiites and Kurds are very enthusiastic about the elections. So a poll in Baghdad doesn’t reflect the resentments in Baqubah, Tikrit, and other Sunni Arab cities. Second, West Baghdad is more secure and more politically oriented that other Sunni Arab areas. Third, we don’t know if scientific weighting was done for the poll published in al-Sabah. Fourth, al-Sabah was set up for propaganda purposes by the Bush administration and its staff at one time resigned in protest over all the propaganda.
Steve Komarow of USA Today compares Shiite Sadr City and Sunni (or at least when it was populated) Fallujah on the eve of Iraq’s elections. He finds Sadr City enthusiastic about the elections and Fallujah not.
One difference that he could have made more of is the attitude of the chief religious authorities. Although many Shiites in Sadr City support the radical Sadr tendency, few of them would deny the authority of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who insisted on the elections being held and under whose auspices a Shiite coalition has been put together. And, some proportion of Sadr City follows Sistani implicitly. Sadr himself has given such mixed signals that it would be hard for them to follow him if they wanted to. First he said he was neutral about the elections, then more recently that he opposes them. Some of his chief lieutenants have called for a boycott (Shaikh Bahadili in Basra), while others are actually standing for election. In the face of this confused message, it is easy for Shiites to pay attention instead to the overall spiritual leadership (al-Hawzah) in Najaf, and the message from Najaf is unambiguous. Vote!
Jim McDermott and Richard Rapport, both MDs and the former a sitting Congressman, summarize the violations of international law committed by the US military in its assault on Fallujah in November. They point to capturing the main hospital, destroying a smaller one, depriving residents of water and electricity, turning away the Red Crescent, and other measures specifically forbidden by the Geneva Conventions.