Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

AP reports: Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body. A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate." A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded. It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the Arab League. [...]

Trudy Rubin of the Miami Herald: Elections signal shift in Sunni attitude. I've always rejected comparisons between the Iraq war and World War II because they are so misleading. Yet when people ask me whether this week's Iraq elections are a turning point that may enable U.S. troops to draw down, I find myself quoting Winston Churchill. ''This is not the end,'' Churchill said, following Montgomery's victory at El Alamein in November 1942. ``It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.'' The Iraqi elections offer a hope that the conflict may begin to shift from the era of car bombs into an era where violence is undercut by politics. Previous elections didn't stem the bloodshed because they failed to address the problem that underlies the violence. The alienated Sunni minority, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein and produces most of the insurgents, felt it had no role in the new Iraq. Sunnis refused to take part in legislative elections in January. But this time Sunnis crammed the polls, even in violent towns like Ramadi where the insurgency is potent. Two factors led to this Sunni attitude change: [...]

Thursday, December 22, 2005

AP reports: Sunni Arab and secular political groups joined forces Wednesday to decide whether to call for a repeat of parliamentary elections that gave the Shiite religious bloc a larger than expected lead. [...]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

BBC reports on the preliminary election results:

The Iraqi Accord Front came second with 18.6% of the vote in Baghdad Province, partial results from 89% of the ballot boxes showed. The Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance won 58% of the vote in Iraq's largest province, where 2,161 candidates ran for 59 of the Council of Representatives' 275 seats. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi National List came third. The election commission also announced that the United Iraqi Alliance was ahead in Basra and eight other southern provinces, and that the Kurdistan Alliance was leading in four northern provinces, including oil-rich Tamim. In the four remaining provinces, where the population of Sunni Arabs is largest, the Iraqi Accord Front came top. The front won 73% of the vote in Anbar Province, 36% in Nineveh, 33% in Salahuddin, 36% in Diyala.

The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says the results in Baghdad will be bad news for both Mr Allawi and the Iraqi Accord Front, which wants to increase Sunni Arab representation in a parliament currently dominated by Shia and Kurdish parties. To judge from the votes counted so far, the Shia alliance is likely to retain its dominant position, our correspondent says. The election commission has said the final results will not be announced until early next month, due to an investigation into complaints of irregularities.

Washington Post: Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government. Faced with preliminary vote counts that suggest a strong victory by the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite religious parties that dominates the outgoing government, political leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority hinted that insurgent violence would be accelerated by the suspicions of fraud.

UPI: Iraq's elections were marked by widespread intimidation and coercion by paramilitary groups, experts said Tuesday. "This election appears to have suffered from very many problems. The reports have become overwhelming," Leslie Campbell, regional director of Middle East and North African programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, told a meeting at the Center for American Progress, a think tank headed by John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.

Monday, December 19, 2005

AP reports: Preliminary results from most of Baghdad's ballot boxes showed the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance leading with 58 percent of the vote in Iraq's biggest electoral district, an election official said Monday. With results from 89 percent of Baghdad, the electoral commission said the alliance received 1,403,901 votes, followed by the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance party with 451,782 votes and former prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National List with 327,174. The commission did not provide any more details. Baghdad is Iraq's biggest electoral district with 2,161 candidates running for 59 of the Iraq parliament's 275 seats.

The Intelligencer: Iraq Elections Show Situation Improving

KUNA: Kuwait Cabinet expresses satisfaction with Iraq elections progress

Philadelphia Inquirer: Iraq elections signal shift in Sunni attitude

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: The Iraq elections: Time to deliver

UPI: Allawi group says fraud in Iraq elections

Niall Ferguson of the L.A. Times: History, democracy and Iraq I SAW TWO OF MY former students last week; one I taught at Cambridge, the other at Oxford. One of them has spent the better part of the last three years on her majesty's service in southern Iraq. The other is based in Jerusalem, working to broker an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Basra and Gaza are certainly not the places I expected them to end up. It is not, however, the fact that they are Oxbridge products — or, indeed, the fact that they are both women — that gives me hope for the future of the Middle East. It is the fact that they are historians.

After all, the forces bedeviling the Middle East today are fundamentally the same ones that tore Europe apart in the last century. Europe a century ago was the continent through which the world's biggest geopolitical fault lines ran. Like the Middle East today, it had the allure of natural resources (coal and iron, not oil). Like the Middle East today, it had a rapidly growing population that was deeply divided along ethnic lines (though the majority were Christians, not Muslims). And like the Middle East today, it was where the tectonic plates of empire met.


DEBKAfile reports (NOTE: not always a reliable source): DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report he has come to deal with the formation of the Iraq government coalition in the light of surprises emerging in the preliminary counting of Iraq’s general election results. Our sources reveal early indications that the big winner is the Shiite Risaliya list headed by Ayatollah Taki Mudrassi, rival of Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Radical cleric Moqtada Sadr’s list in the United Iraq Alliance bloc has performed strongly. Former prime minister Iyad Allawi’s mixed Iraqi List has made solid gains of an estimated 30% of the Sunni Muslim vote and 20% among the Shiites. The Kurdish alliance appears to have lost ground but is still expected to hold the balance of power in the future National Assembly. Ahmed Chalabi’s party appears to have fared badly.