Early reports say that 60% of Iraqi’s electorate came out for Saturday’s election of provincial councils. The results will be announced by the end of this week, and only after “weeks” will the final tally be published. There was a lockdown of the whole country, in which US troops assisted, with no private automobiles allowed to run. Given this datum, the breathless newspaper headlines that the elections came off without any major attacks are reporting a given. Guerrillas can’t detonate a car bomb if they can’t drive a car to their target.
Glitches prevented thousands of voters from casting their ballots McClatchy says, causing big demonstrations and protest rallies to be held. The Iraqi government electoral high commission said that the main problem was that some Iraqis had not registered and then just showed up expecting to be able to vote anyway. There were widespread reports of vote-buying.
American corporate media will report the Iraqi provincial elections as a vindication of the 2003 US invasion of that country, and as a sign that Iraqis are eager to be like Americans. In places like Sadr City, the teeming slums of East Baghdad, many Iraqis voted as a protest against continued US military presence. Likewise, Sunni fundamentalists saw the vote as an assertion of Iraqi sovereignty. The elections come in the wake of the Status of Forces Agreement that pledges all US troops will be out of the country by 2011, and in the wake of the election of Barack Obama in the US, who has committed to having most US troops out in 16 months. The sharp fall in deaths of civilians and security personnel in January, to 189, is not a sign that Bush won but rather that the Iraqis have. No point in blowing things up if the US is leaving anyway, and less reason to resist the new federal Iraqi government if Sunni Arab elites can rule their own provinces.
It is not the US presence in Iraq that Iraqis are celebrating in this election but Washington’s imminent departure.
The USG Open Source center translated the sermon Fiday of Muzaffar al-Musawi, Friday prayer leader in Sadr City is observed to carry a report on a Friday sermon Shaykh Muzaffar al-Musawi delivered in the City of Al-Sadr:
‘ In his sermon, Al-Musawi urges citizens to participate in the elections “intensively so that others will not fill the voting forms.” He denounces those whom he termed the “climbers of the ladder of Al Al-Sadr.” He says: “We call on the sons of the City of Al-Sadr to vote lest others fill the forms or rig the elections. The one who does not participate in the elections will be betraying Martyr Al-Sadr and Muqtada al-Sadr.”
He adds: “Some politicians and parties speak in the name of the two religious authorities, Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, may God sanctify their secret. We tell them that we, the sons of the two Al-Sadrs suffered from the torture and evil of Saddam. Beware, do not let anyone to climb the ladder of Al Al-Sadr.”
Al-Musawi says: “Our bloc is the Independent Free Men Trend bloc, for which the Al-Sadr Trend announced its support a week ago.”
Al-Musawi adds: “We have seen humiliation and deprivation from the authority and the occupier. What the occupier did was more heinous than what Saddam did.”
Concluding, Al-Musawi says: “Elect the Independent Free Men Trend list so that your suffering will end. Make them hear your voice tomorrow. Say yes, yes to the Free Men List in order to prove to them that we are still present in the arena, the street, and Iraq.”
Al-Sharq al-Awsat [The Middle East] reports in Arabic that it conducted unscientific exit polling after Iraqi voters exited from the polling booths. It found that there was a lively contest between secular and religious parties. The newspaper found a surge for the Alliance for a Government of Laws led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, head of the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa)–the main component of the coalition. Falling behind was the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. ISCI dominted 9 of 11 provinces where there were Shiite majorities or substantial Shiite populations in the Jan. 2005 election.
Al-Maliki’s coalition consists of the Islamic Mission Party, the Islamic Mission Party – Iraq Organization, Solidarity in Iraq, The Islamic Union of Iraqi Turkmen, the Iraqi Fayli Kurdish Brotherhood Movement, the 1991 Popular Iraqi Uprising Bloc and independents. The core of this coalition is the two major branches of the Da’wa Party, the oldest Shiite fundamentalist party in Iraq, founded around 1958. It was devastated by Saddam Hussein’s persecution from 1980 to 2003, and went underground as a conspiracy of cadres. Al-Maliki is now attempting to reformulate it as an ordinary mass political party. The Coalition for a Government of Laws contested seats in 13 provinces, skipping the almost totally Sunni al-Anbar Province. Still it seems to be attracting some Sunnis. That is not new. In its golden age of the 1960s and 1970s, about 10 percent of the Da’wa membership is estimated to have been Sunnis. Although Da’wa or the Islamic Mission Party is Shiite fundamentalists, it is not a clerical party and it is not as close to Iran as ISCI. It is benefitting from a perception that al-Maliki has gotten a handle on the security situation.
Two secular parties, the Iraqi List of former appointed prime minister Iyad Allawi and the Citizens Coalition, also seemed to SA to be attracting some voters. (Citizens groups the Communist Party of Iraq, the Arab Socialist Party, and the National Democratic Party.) The problem with this newspaper’s poll is immediately apparent when we consider that Citizens only ran 55 candidates in an election for which 450 seats on 14 provincial councils are open. They therefore cannot possibly garner more than about 10 percent even if they win every seat they contest, and they certainly won’t do anywhere nearly that well. In fact, there is no point mentioning this coalition in the same breath with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. ISCI may not do as well as it did in January of 2005, but it is likely to do well in, and be a political force in, some southern Shiite provinces.
Anthony Shadid of WaPo points to the results in troubled Diyala Province as especially important. A Sunni-majority province, it has been being run by the Iran-linked Badr Corps of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
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