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Daily Column
Iraq Papers Sat: New Alliances
Passing of Elections' Law Energizes the Political Scene
By AMER MOHSEN 09/26/2008 7:17 PM ET
Al-Hayat editorialized that “the promulgation of the (provincial) elections law launched a new phase of (political) competition” between Iraqi factions. Once the law was passed earlier this week, and elections set (in the “Arab” provinces) at a date no later than the end of January 2009, major Iraqi parties realized that they were all facing a crucial test of popularity, which will likely result in the extinction of several “major” political movements.

Many observers doubt the results and legitimacy of the 2005 Parliamentary elections on several grounds: they were held under conditions of direct occupation and social turmoil, pro-US factions (which had better access to the occupation authorities) were at an advantage, many of the candidates and parties were foreign to the Iraqi public and large sections of the Iraqi society boycotted the elections on principle.

The coming provincial elections, however, will be held under different conditions: five years of political squabbles have engendered a new political culture in Iraq. Much of the population is politicized and political affiliations are no longer reduced to sectarian fears – the major political contests are expected to take place within the Shi'a and Sunni camps, as opposed to frenetic Shi'a-Sunni competition over representation, which was the hallmark of the 2005 legislatives.

Al-Hayat reported that al-Hakeem’s SIIC is already rushing to announce new electoral alliances. The SIIC is among the most-represented parties in the Parliament, and is currently the major pillar of the pro-government I'tilaf bloc. Officials in the party told al-Hayat that “the coming days” will witness negotiations with various parties to join the SIIC lists in the provinces. SIIC leader 'Abd al-Kareem al-Naqeeb claimed that “much time was wasted” with negotiations over the Elections’ Law, which prevented his party from preparing properly for the coming contest.

A pro-Ja'fari politician, Falih al-Fayyad, contradicted al-Naqeeb - asserting that alliances and negotiations pertaining to the elections have been in the works “for months,” since all parties “had prior knowledge of the elections’ date, even before the formal issuance of the law.”

Az-Zaman, on the other hand, focused on the perceived lacunas in the law, especially in what pertains to religious and ethnic minorities. One of the major features of the current law is that it does not include a “minorities’ quota,” as in past electoral contests. Previous election laws guaranteed a certain number of seats to smaller Iraqi minorities (Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, Yazeedis, Zaraostrians etc...,) a measure that was removed from the current law.

Az-Zaman said that Iraq’s minority communities reacted with “popular anger” to the new law. Areas heavily inhabited by those minorities, especially in Nineveh and Sinjar, saw their political representation vanish among the Kurdish-Arab power-sharing deals, the paper said.

As often, Az-Zaman accused Iran of being somehow responsible for the controversial policies, alluding that “the Iranian model” in governance “is being widely cloned” by Iraqi institutions.

Lastly, al-Hayat reported that three additional members of the Iraqi De-Ba'thification committee were arrested by US troops in recent days. The Committee’s director, 'Ali al-Lami, was arrested last month by US troops and was accused of using his position to provide death squads with targets.

The Committee issued a statement today denouncing the arrests and claiming that US forces did not have the legal right to arrest the employees and intervene in the functioning of Iraqi institutions. The statement did not refer to the charges made against its director and employees.


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