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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Below is an excerpt from James Longley, Electronic Iraq, 11 February 2004, giving a candid discription of movement in Nasiriyah to elect leaders through direct elections, despite the assurances from the UN and US occupation authorities that it can not be done. - Bob Allen "It was clear from the meeting that the local parties in Nasiriyah not only have the organizational capability to conduct their own elections without the UN / U.S. supervision or interference - they are determined to do it. Everyone involved in Iraqi politics is acutely aware of U.S. desires to have a new Iraqi government appointed by appointees of the United States, and they have apparently decided to take matters into their own hands to prevent such an outcome." http://electroniciraq.net/news/1364.shtml Travels in the South James Longley, Electronic Iraq, 11 February 2004 Nasiriyah is the fourth-largest city in Iraq and the Euphrates River runs through it. Like most cities in the south, the population here is almost all Shia Muslim. Nasiriyah was always a thorn in the side of Saddam Hussein's regime; many people here rose up against the Baathist government in 1991. The city and surrounding towns are filled with people who have only recently returned from exile in neighboring Iran or Saudi Arabia, those who fled persecution after the failed 1991 uprising. I came to Nasiriyah filming the story of a sheik in Moqtada Sadr's religious-political movement. Moqtada's popularity stems from his father, Mohammed Al Sadr, Iraq's most prominent Shia cleric, who was assassinated along with his two eldest sons -- almost certainly by Saddam's regime -- in 1999. Young Moqtada Sadr escaped to Iran, and returned to Iraq following the U.S.-led invasion to take up his father's mantle. Less compromising than Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shia leader who has shaken U.S. plans for a new Iraqi government appointed indirectly by the United States by calling for direct elections, Moqtada Sadr has rejected the idea of waiting for national elections held under the auspices of the United Nations. Sadr's followers and many Iraqi political parties are now moving to hold direct local elections and remove the city advisory councils and mayors put into power by the United States following the war. This call has been taken up in Najaf, the city holy to all Shia Muslims, where elections are being planned for February 17. Similar moves are starting to be made in smaller towns, such as the neighboring Al Garraf. Everyone agrees that having a city leadership appointed by the U.S. is intolerable. Two weeks ago thousands of protestors arrived in front of the Nasiriyah Mayor's office and demanded the Mayor's resignation on the grounds that he was appointed by the Americans, and therefore illegitimate. The standoff has apparently cooled down in anticipation of direct local elections; the U.S.-appointed mayor of Nasiriyah is no longer showing up to work. "We want to turn that building back into a library." I was told in Sadr's office. "We explained to the Mayor that because he was an American appointee he should expect people to come and remove him." Today a meeting of political parties was held in Nasiriyah to organize the process by which local elections will take place. There were no journalists present, but I was invited to attend and came away generally impressed. Though the party representatives disagreed at times, they resolved all their issues through an intense debate lasting almost two hours. Direct elections of the mayor and city council of Nasiriyah was the driving issue, and they all agreed that no political appointments would be allowed; The new political leadership would be chosen democratically at the ballot box. Discussions were held to decide whether the new city council should have quotas for different religious factions, such as Shia or Sunni Muslims; In the end it was decided that anyone could run for office irrespective of religious affiliation, as long as they had not been a Baathist collaborator under Saddam. Details like whether a candidate should be required to have finished university were also debated: In the end they decided not to require a university degree because so many otherwise qualified candidates were either in prison or in hiding during the latter part of Saddam's reign. The party representatives drafted a memo regarding elections which they plan to distribute to all political parties in Nasiriyah. It was clear from the meeting that the local parties in Nasiriyah not only have the organizational capability to conduct their own elections without the UN / U.S. supervision or interference - they are determined to do it. Everyone involved in Iraqi politics is acutely aware of U.S. desires to have a new Iraqi government appointed by appointees of the United States, and they have apparently decided to take matters into their own hands to prevent such an outcome. _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk