Iraq's farcical election:
Iraqi elections due to take place on 30th January are vital
to the legitimacy of the American occupation. Not only are they
necessary in order to remain in compliance with UN Security Council
Resolution 1546, that provides the legal authority for US troops to
remain, but it is even more necessary to give some legitimacy to the
Iraqi government in the eyes of the Iraqi people. Currently the
institutions of the Interim government have no legitimacy. The elections
are for a National Assembly which will serve for a transitional period
of nine months, during which period it will write a new constitution.
Yet a question mark still
hangs over whether the elections will even take place. Only last week,
Defence Minister Hazem Al-Shaalan told reporters in Cairo that the
elections could still be delayed if Egypt was willing to mediate with
the Iraqi Sunnis in order to secure their participation. "We have asked
our Arab brothers, particularly in Egypt and the Gulf countries, to get
Iraqi Sunnis to participate in the elections, and if such participation
requires a delay to the election date, then it could be delayed" .
Indeed a boycott by Sunni parties, and voters, remains a very large
threat. there had been hopes that the (Sunni) Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP)
would take part, but they have just announced they will be joining the
This is a severe blow to
any threads of legitimacy that the government resulting from the
elections might have. US officials have floated the idea of an appointed
quota, which could conveniently be used to secure a place for Iraqi
Sunnis in the national assembly. But Tariq Al-Hashemi of the IIP told
Al-Jazeera: "The National Assembly will be without legitimacy and we
will reject the constitution that it draws up." The Shia followers of
Muqtada Al-Sadr are also boycotting the election, although there are
some claims that there are actually some 20 Sadrist candidates running.
Naturally other forces in
Iraq, primarily those who hope to benefit from the elections, are
downplaying the impact of the boycott. For example, Al-Maliki, a
candidate for the Unified Iraqi Alliance, backed by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani,
dismissed the claims that the Sunnis would be largely unrepresented.
"The Kurds are Sunnis, the Turcoman are Sunnis, and there are also Sunni
candidates still running for election," he said. "Those forces which
chose to boycott, like the IIP or the Association of Muslim Scholars, do
not represent all of the Sunnis in Iraq."
The security situation is
also a real threat to the elections. The governorates of Baghdad, Mosul
and Anbar and not secure enough for meaningful elections to be held.
According to Adnan Pachachi, of the Independent Democrats coalition (a
secular Sunni-dominated movement) large numbers of Iraqis will not vote
simply out of fear. As Lt, General Thomas Metz, commander of US ground
forces in Iraq recently said: "I just can't guarantee that everyone
will be able to go to a poll in total safety. I cannot put a bubble
around every person walking from their home to the polling site."
Insurgents have begun to target election workers and candidates, forcing
many electoral employees to resign from their jobs. The resistance
group, Ansar Al- Sunna, has warned that "no one who agrees to take
part in this dirty farce will be safe. This vote is a mockery organised
by the enemy in order to grant legitimacy to the new government ... To
participate in these elections is the biggest gift that we could give
America. And America is the enemy of Islam, and the tyrant of the age."
The security situation
has also distorted the electoral process as the whole of Iraq is being
treated as a single electoral constituency across which the number of
seats will be directly proportional to the number of votes each party
gets. The result, according to Nadhim Al-Jasour of Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya
University, is an expectation that every political group will be
represented, because to win a seat only 26000 votes are required.
Consequently there are over 83 electoral lists, put forward by 47
parties and 27 individuals and involving 7200 candidates, and all this
will be on the ballot paper, because Iraq is just one electoral
According to Al Jasour
the combined factors of voters' unfamiliarity with the candidates or
parties, low turnout, a partial boycott and the ongoing war, means that
the lists most likely to win include those of incumbent Prime Minister
Iyad Allawi and Hussein Al-Sadr (seven groups with 233 candidates); the
Kurdistan Alliance (12 groups with 165 candidates); the Unified Iraqi
Alliance, also known as the Shia list although it involves Turcoman and
Kurdish candidates, (16 groups with 228 candidates); and the Peoples
Unity list (276 candidates, including 91 women). The latter is an
alliance of socialist and pro-democracy movements from across the
religious and ethnic spectrum, led by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP).
(Electoral program of Iraqi peoples'
Of course it is highly questionable whether
the ICP should be participating in these elections. According to ICP
spokesperson, Salam Ali, interviewed in the Morning Star they believe it
is necessary to "move forward to
the next stage - not to bring drastic change, but the next stage is
crucial to prepare for a permanent constitution and to commit the
Americans to a timetable for withdrawal ... UN resolution 1546 says that
the government [that results from these elections]- does have the right
to terminate the presence of the occupation forces."
The electoral program of the ICP is on
paper largely progressive, as Salam Ali explains: "Our
major themes are to eliminate the legacy of dictatorship and occupation,
to build the foundations of a free and unified federal democratic Iraq,
... On social and economic issues, we are for restoring free and
universal education, health services and the social security system and
tackling the issue of corruption, because corruption is endemic as a
result of the dictatorship and also the occupation. Tackling
unemployment is also a major issue for us ... There is mass
unemployment, although unemployment has officially gone down to 25-30
per cent. The real figure is nearer 50 per cent, if not more, with the
consequent impact on security and social issues, the environment and the
rest of things. So our top priority is to invest heavily to ensure that
this sector gets back to work. Definitely, we are against privatisation
and neoliberal policies ... Clearly, Washington will not be happy with
this. It has notoriously handed billions of dollars over to big US
corporations instead of to Iraqis themselves."
the ICP's position
remains ambiguous towards the military
insurgency, the Peoples' Unity manifesto contains the following demand:
"Rebuilding state institutions on
the basis of citizenship, efficiency and integrity, especially the
police, army and national defence forces,
and ensuring that they are not infiltrated
by the hostile forces".
As Kemil Mahdi has pointed out the disbanding of independent Iraqi
institutions by Paul Bremmer, such as the ministries of the interior,
defence and communications as well as the army, were seen by many Iraqis
as part of a neo-conservative agenda to ensure that there were no Iraqi
bodies that could reverse the privatisation and plundering of Iraqi
assets by US corporations. The demands for these institutions to be
rebuilt (purged of Ba'athists) is therefore perhaps unobjectionable.
Perhaps by calling that the police and army
must be "not infiltrated by
hostile forces" the ICP
are arguing that they should be purged of
officers associated with actively enforcing the terror of Saddam's
regime, in which case the demand is sensible. However it is ambiguous
and it could also be interpreted as meaning that
the security forces of the Iraqi state
should be purged of all those who
support the insurgency, which further
taints the ICP with the charge of collaboration with the occupation.
This is a dangerous road to take, as the murder last week of IFTU
official Hadi Salih revealed. It is vital for the future integrity and
independence of the Iraqi labour movement that they distance themselves
from the occupation.