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

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Dear Yasser (et al)

Thanks for the clarification. You raised this question of how the elections
should be organised some time ago and I should obviously have paid more
attention to it then. Since then I have participated in a party-only
election (the European election in Wales). Previously it had never occurred
to me that any electoral system would deprive one of any possibility of
voting for individual candidates.

Since you have been following this perhaps you could help me further. In a
recent mailing Juan Cole (an indispensable reference for trying to
understand what is going on in Iraq at the present time) says:

"Since the six major parties listed include the two (Sunni) Kurdish parties
and the largely Sunni Iraqi National Accord (primarily ex-Baathists) led by
Iyad Allawi, as well as the mixed Iraqi National Congress, I think Sistani
is afraid that the al-Da`wa and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution
in Iraq--the two main Shiite parties-- could end up with a minority in

You say:

>While the exile parties may come
> together that does not mean they will dominate because they would still need
> the support - and polls show they don't have that.

You go on to say there are other 'local groups' but if Iraq is being treated
as a single constituency in the election local groups surely won't have much
of a chance. So who else is there? Supporters of al-Sadr (could it be argued
that the US are attacking them so heavily in Sadr City and also breaking the
terms of the agreement in Najaf in order to prevent them from having the
chance to go political)? the Iraqi Communist Party? The Board of Muslim
Clerics (they have said they will boycott it but that presumably means they
have been invited to participate)?

You go on to say:

>I know for a fact that Sistani was in favour of the Shia parties - Dawa
> and SCIRI, and maybe others - coming together to form a list

My understanding is that SCIRI is an offshoot of al-Dawa and there are other
offshoots, some of them still using the al-Dawa name, so it would make sense
for them to come together. But the talk in Filkins' article - and of course
I don't know what the source would be - seems to suggest a coalition
including all the parties Cole names. The only sense in this would be to
give seats in the Parliament to the INA and possibly the INC which they
wouldn't get on the basis of their support in Iraq. Difficult to see why
SCIRI/al-Dawa would agree to this except that IF only the six named parties
were standing there would be virtually NO Sunni presence in the resulting
Parliament (other than the Kurds) which would be obviously ridiculous.



> From: "Yasser Alaskary" <>
> Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 13:08:27 +0000
> To:,
> Subject: Re: [casi-analysis] Will there be elections in January?
> Dear Peter and all,
> You have understood the mechanisms of the election correctly.
> However, i would disagree with your analysis. The IPO heavily advocated
> proportional representation system for the January elections - in opposition
> to some in the Pentagon who were calling for elections based on candidates.
> While this may not seem logical at first, as made clear by your reasoning,
> you need to remember the following:
> - If elections are based on candidates, then there will obviously be winners
> and losers. In any district there will have been one candidate who won and
> several who did not. The winning candidate may only have 10% of the vote,
> with the rest of the count divided by the other candidates. This means that
> the representative of this district, who will go on to the National Assembly
> to write the draft constitution only represents 10% of that area; 90% of
> people will be unrepresented.
> - In a country that lacks strong political party system, there is a need to
> give an incentive to get people together. While the exile parties may come
> together that does not mean they will dominate because they would still need
> the support - and polls show they don't have that. Other than Dawa's Jafari
> none of the leaders have even managed to hit double figures yet. (With
> regards to the article about Sayyid Sistani, it's not clear what the source
> is. I know for a fact that Sistani was in favour of the Shia parties - Dawa
> and SCIRI, and maybe others - coming together to form a list and he was
> encouraging them to do so; so I'm still a bit sceptical about the report,
> there may have been a misunderstanding). There are powerful groups inside
> Iraq that are emerging that will likely form their own lists - Moqtada's lot
> comes to mind as well as other local groups. It won't be a walk-over for any
> group.
> - With a PR list system every vote counts, there are no wasted votes. So a
> list of people will get the number of seats in proportion to the percentage
> of the vote it received. This is essential for writing a constitution.
> For further information, see IPO's March 2004 report: Considerations for an
> Electoral System for Iraq's Transition Period at:
> Best wishes
> Yasser Alaskary
> Media Affairs Director
> Iraqi Prospect Organisation
> ----Original Message Follows----
> From: Peter Brooke <>
> To: <>
> Subject: Re: [casi-analysis] Will there be elections in January?
> Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 04:28:56 +0000
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> [ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]
> 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 -
> xnnl=1&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1095951727-XD3K6Kyf1BxELdl6NoVKYA
> ) 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
> it.
> Peter
>> 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
>> 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
>> 5.
>> 6.
>> 7.
>> 8.
>> 9.
>> ectCountry=IRAQ
>> 10.
>> 11.
>> ment
>> 12.
>> 13.
>> 14.
> tm> l
>> 15.
>> 16.
>> 17.
>> 18.
>> ------------
>> Daniel O'Huiginn
>> 07745 192426
>> 24, Priory Road, Cambridge
>> ------------
>> _______________________________________
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