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Re: [casi-analysis] Will there be elections in January?

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Dear all

An article in the NY Times by Dexter Filkins (Top Shiite Cleric Is Said to
Fear Voting in Iraq May Be Delayed, September 23, 2004 -

) gives some idea of the current state of proposals for organising the Iraqi
elections if they take place next January. I find it very difficult to wrap
my head round questions of this sort so there is considerable risk of
misunderstanding in what follows.

Juan Cole has summarised it as a proposal for 'nation-wide pre-selected
party lists'. Filkins says:

'Under the electoral system, drawn up by the United Nations, voters will
select not individual candidates but lists, whose members will take a number
of seats in the National Assembly roughly proportional to the shares of the
votes their parties receive.'

So it is a matter of parties, not individuals.

In an earlier mailing I had said: 'it is likely to be an assemblage of
local interest groups, probably bearing more than a passing resemblance to
the old Iraqi Governing Council'

I was assuming that local candidates would be standing, representing local
interests NOT parties, on the grounds that it was impossible under existing
circumstances to develop a party system. If this had been the case then I
would have been wrong and the result would probably NOT have resembled the
old Iraqi Governing Council.

Since no political parties except the Baath Party were allowed under Saddam
Hussein, and the Baath Party (whatever about individual Baath Party members)
is not allowed under the occupation regime, the only parties that are
sufficiently well organised to present themselves to the electorate are
those who were represented in the old Iraqi Governing Council. So the result
of a system in which one can only vote for parties not individuals will be
that the new government WILL greatly resemble the old Iraqi Governing
Council. The voters will be faced with a ballot paper which will read SCIRI,
al-Dawa, Iraqi Communist Party, Iraqi National Accord, PUK, KDP and,
possibly 'Moqtada's lot' (Filkins also mentions the Iraqi National Congress,
but have they, ie the Chalabis, been effectively removed from the scene?).
Not much there for the Sunnis.

But it gets worse.

Filkins' article goes on to say that the old IGC parties are proposing to
coalesce into a single list, sharing out the places between themselves:

'While many Iraqi leaders envisioned that each party would put forward its
own list for the election, the negotiations among the larger parties are
driving at consolidating all of the candidates onto a single slate. Party
leaders involved in the negotiations say such a ticket would be conducive to
national unity in a time of great distress.'

The article says Sistani is worried that this carve-up would discriminate
against Shi'ites:

'Under an agreement reached among exile groups in the early 1990's, the
Shiites were said to make up about 55 percent of the population. Ayatollah
Sistani, the sources say, believes the Shiite population has swelled since
then and therefore would be underrepresented on any list based on a 55
percent figure.'

Though since SCIRI and al-Dawa would be the only parties, outside the Kurds,
with any pretence to representative status, they should be in a strong
bargaining position.

If I've understood it right, the voter will be confronted with a ballot
paper that will propose a national list (whatever name it chooses to adopt)
against whoever chooses not to be part of the national list for whatever
reason. Since the latter are likely to be much weaker in terms of party
organisation and the whole process is taking place in a franmework
determined by the national list, it shouldn't be difficult to marginalise
them. So the Iraqi people will be faced with a choice between the old Iraqi
Governing Council and the old Iraqi Governing Council.

Have I understood aright?

If I have, then it seems to me that this kind of pseudo-election without
candidates and without any need for campaigning could be held quite easily.
But the only kind of election that has any hope of creating a credible
representative Parliament is one based not on parties but on individuals -
elections in which anyone can stand. People may then vote for local
personalities without any necessary 'national' connections. There is a
remote possibility that the towns that are presently in resistance could be
drawn in. Of course getting consensus and forming a government or even doing
the primary work of forming a constitution would be very difficult under
those circumstances but there would be some chance of some level of
credibility. If I have understood the existing system aright (I emphasise
that I am open to correction) it is a fix that is surely so blatant that
no-one - not even the great American and British public - could be fooled by


> From: Daniel O'Huiginn <>
> Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2004 12:58:43 +0100 (BST)
> To:
> Subject: [casi-analysis] Will there be elections in January?
> [ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]
> Dear list,
> There have recently been a couple of good articles on progress
> towards the January elections (1, 5), as well as a Secretary General's
> report earlier in the month giving a summary of the limited progress over
> the summer (16, p. 7-9). Throughout that period, worries about the
> deadline have been floating around, with the UN quietly panicking (2), and
> Iraqi politicians needing to publicly deny that there have been problems
> (3)
> The most important question is whether the elections will happen at all.
> Kofi Annan has been becoming gradually more pessimistic in his public
> statements, most recently telling the BBC that "You cannot have credible
> elections if the security conditions continue as they are now."(17). I
> imagine the US wants to avoid any definite postponement before their own
> elections, so I wouldn't wait for anything so downbeat from them. But the
> situation on the ground more than justifies Annan's attitude. The UN
> election assistants have fled to Jordan (5), and the (Iraqi) members of
> the electoral commission ((4) has a list of their names) rarely dare leave
> the Green Zone, and feel forced to travel incognito (1) whenever they do
> venture out. Candidates, too, will have a hard time roaming the country
> without getting shot. Ironically, they'll need to travel because of the
> proportional representation system, which was put in place to make it
> harder for local militias to intimidate candidates.
> In such a climate, it's natural that most people, like Annan, see security
> as the main problem. Unfortunately, this has led to an extremely
> counter-productive approach from the military, which insists that it must
> invade 'no-go areas' like Najaf and Fallujah in order to provide security
> for elections. For example an AP from a fortnight ago says that "The U.S.
> military will work to regain control of rebel strongholds and turn them
> over to Iraq's fledgling security forces so elections will be seen by
> Iraqis - and the world - as free and fair." (13)
> Helena Cobban picks this argument apart in the Christian Science Monitor
> (12). She argues - based on a comparison to South Africa - that: "For
> elections to be held and to be judged valid in any part of Iraq, it is not
> necessary that US forces be in control of that area - only that it be
> peaceable enough to allow free access by election workers, candidates, and
> party organizers, all of whom are Iraqi, not American. If the election
> process has enough general political credibility in the country, they will
> have the access they need."
> In fact, escalating the conflict with Sadr is having the opposite effect,
> opening up the awful possibility of no elections in Fallujah whatsoever:
> "At the weekend Dr Allawi mooted an alternative possibility, also floated
> by Lieutenant- General Thomas Metz, operations chief of the 150,000 US-led
> troops in Iraq: that elections could be prevented or delayed in Fallujah
> without prejudicing the overall result." (1)
> Looking at Allawi's comments another way, they're just another step in the
> long process of scaling back expectations for the elections. In June the
> UN thought 30,000 polling stations would be needed(6). Now, they're
> planning to have 7,000 (5). The same scaling-back is happening with voter
> registration. In June, the UN was planning to use oil for food ration
> cards to identify voters (9). This was replaced by a plan to have a full
> census, which would have taken place on October 12 (7). As the 21 July IPO
> news analysis (10) explains, this is a good thing because the "ration card
> database is deeply flawed. The Hajj pilgrimage allocations, executed in
> December and which were based on that database, resulted in gross
> overestimation of population size of districts that were Ba'athi
> strongholds, and underestimation of population size from districts that
> were hostile to Saddam." I'd add to that the practical problem that
> however good the ration cards were two years ago, they're out of date now,
> given the large migrations, return of expatriates, etc. A census would
> also be extremely useful for other reasons (11) However, the census was
> cancelled in late August because of security concerns(8), and so we're
> back to the OFF cards (5). What's worse, the procedure for dealing with
> discrepencies is pretty flimsy: "Residents will be able to look at the
> list for six weeks in November and December to make corrections...We don't
> have time to worry too much" (5)
> Another issue that pops up from time to time is postal voting for
> non-resident Iraqis. Not surprisingly, the 5-million-strong expatriate
> community are keen on this, but there are problems. Leaving aside the
> practical issues of finding them, registering them, and getting them
> ballot papers, there is the problem that many of those who would class
> themselves as Iraqi don't have official citizenship. Because 4 fifths of
> the expatriates are Shia, some Sunni groups may also object to postal
> voting (15). To understand the significance of this, bear in mind that
> five million people is somewhere around a sixth of the total population.
> The obvious next question is what happens if elections are postponed or
> seriously flawed. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, but in the
> meantime I'll leave you with this comment from Juan Cole (18):
> "Sistani's quite resonable demand for elections is nevertheless among
> the greatest dangers facing the Allawi government and the Americans. It
> will be extremely difficult actually to hold the elections on time. But
> Sistani believes only such elections can produce a legitimate government,
> and he already accepted a six-month delay. If the elections are not held,
> and if Sistani begins to fear they won't be held soon, he may well call
> the masses into the streets. That could lead to an overthrow of Allawi and
> an expulsion of the Americans. Keep your eye on February and March of
> 2005."
> 1.,,7374-1261760,00.html
> 2.
> 3.
> 4.
> ment
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> ectCountry=IRAQ
> 10.
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> ment
> 12.
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tm> l
> 15.
> 16.
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> 18.
> ------------
> Daniel O'Huiginn
> 07745 192426
> 24, Priory Road, Cambridge
> ------------
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