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Iraq Report: February 21, 2005


21 February 2005, Volume 8, Number 6
MANY IRAQI PARTIES LEFT OUT IN THE COLD WITH ELECTION RESULTS. With the release of election results for the 275-member transitional National Assembly, many political parties and independent candidates have been left out in the cold. The election was organized according to lists of ranked candidates who will be allotted assembly seats based upon how many votes their list got. For example, the Shi'ite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance list received 140 seats in the assembly. The alliance listed 228 candidates on its ballot; thus, the first 140 names listed on its ballot will assume seats in the parliament. Some 8.4 million Iraqis out of about 14 million eligible voters cast their ballots on election day, the election commission said.

One of the best-known leaders to Westerners in the new Iraq is Adnan Pachachi, whose Independent Iraqi Democrats list lost out completely, having garnered around 23,000 votes. The list with the smallest number of votes to win a seat on the transitional assembly was the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, led by Sunni leader Mish'an al-Juburi, with 30,796 votes.

Pachachi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) in a 16 February interview: "It is clear that there are some 3 million voters who did not vote in these elections. That had, of course, a strong and direct effect on the result. But whatever happened, the elections did take place, and were, in general, fair. Of course, there were some breaches and complaints. Nevertheless, the elections were successful but incomplete as the nonparticipation of 3 million or more voters in the elections has necessarily given an incorrect and unrealistic image to the Iraqi situation."

He did not discount the possibility, however, that those groups left out of the transitional assembly would take part in the government. "I think that the government will be based on broad consensus. All sides must agree on it. I think that it will include some groups that are not represented in the National Assembly, or that did not participate in the elections. Anyway, there are negotiations going on now," he said.

One Turkoman party, the Iraqi Turkoman Front, walked away with three seats in the transitional assembly. The communist People's Union, garnered two seats. The Chaldo-Assyrian list won one seat on the interim assembly; other minority groups, such as the Yezidis, appear to have lost out completely.

Yezidis had complained that many of them were unable to vote in the election because polling centers were never opened in their villages. Yezidi Prince Tahsin-beg told RFI in a 31 January interview: "We, [the people of] Sheykhan district [situated between Dahuk and Ninawah governorates] -- Yezidis, Muslims, and Christians -- were waiting in flocks to elect whom we wished. Up to now, no ballot box has come where the flocks of people could cast their votes. All the people are upset because they could not participate in the elections." The Independent Election Commission examined the complaint, but in the end ruled that it would not allow the vote to take place at a later date.

Sunni groups largely boycotted the election and, as a result, Sunnis fared poorly. There will be only a handful of Sunnis in the parliament. The Sunni-led Iraqi Islamic Party, which boycotted elections only to get 21,342 votes, reportedly expressed regret about its decision to not participate. Had the party done so, it would have likely won at least one seat in the transitional assembly.

The other major party to boycott the election, the Muslim Scholars Association, expressed no regret about its decision not to participate. Association spokesman Muthanna Harith al-Dari told RFI in a 16 February interview that his group would focus its efforts on the drafting of a constitution in the coming months.

Discussing the previous day's conference organized by the association under the banner "Iraqi Patriotic Forces Against the Occupation" and attended by associates of Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Sunni cleric Jawad al-Khalisi, al-Dari said: "The gathering aimed at confirming the attitude of these forces to the issues on the agenda. On top of that is the national reconciliation and drafting the constitution. The forces made clear that they are going to deal with both issues based on [certain] principles. If the principles are fulfilled, then their participation can be discussed."

The main principle al-Dari referred to is the withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq. Participants also demanded a recognition by the government of the resistance that includes a distinction between what he views as "legitimate" resistance and what he termed "the damnable terrorism." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Transitional National Assembly seats:

United Iraqi Alliance, 140 seats
Kurdistan Coalition list, 75 seats
Iraqi list, 40 seats
Iraqiyun list, five seats
Iraqi Turkoman Front, three seats
Independent National Elites and Cadres, three seats
Islamic Action Organization in Iraq--Central Command, two seats
Kurdistan Islamic Group in Iraq, two seats
People's Union, two seats
Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, one seat
National Democratic Alliance, one seat
Al-Rafidayn list, one seat

In the Kurdistan parliamentary election, the Kurdistan Democratic list won 104 seats; the Kurdistan Islamic Group won six seats; and the Zahmatkeshani Kurdistan Party won one seat.

KURDS WIN MAJORITY IN KIRKUK COUNCIL ELECTIONS, TURKOMANS PROTEST. Kurdish parties running in Kirkuk Governorate council elections under the Kirkuk Brotherhood list won 58.4 percent of the vote, according to results released this week by the Iraqi election commission. The percentage amounts to 237,303 votes out of 400,892 ballots cast. By contrast, the Iraqi Turkoman Front, which had protested an election commission decision to allow Kurds displaced from the city to cast their ballots there, took 16 percent of the vote, or 73,791 ballots.

Turkomans protested the outcome of the election, as well as their faring in National Assembly elections in two days of demonstrations in Baghdad, carrying placards demanding their rights, and claimed that the elections were rigged. Kurds, meanwhile, celebrated their victory. The third-highest list was the Iraqi Republican grouping, an Arab party that garnered 34,635 votes in Kirkuk.

"I believe that the results of the election in Kirkuk will reflect positively on the situation in the town because it will return back the real image of the town and the region that suffered from ethnic cleansing," Bakhtiyar Talabani, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) information officer, told Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on 16 February. "We think that the result of the election in Kirkuk reflects the true situation in Kirkuk, and that's what we were focusing on before in our demands," he added.

RFI reported that in the Arab and Turkoman part of town, people were watching to see what would happen next. Ali Mehdi from the Turkoman Ahali party told RFI: "The general results of the elections show that the people who are in the government now won the election, which is not reflecting on the Iraqi nation. Instead of that, we, a week before the election, issued a statement that we will participate in the elections only to participate in a democratic process. But we are not convinced of the results because there were no [outside observers] like the United Nations or foreign organizations to observe the elections. Therefore, the elections were not 100 percent honest." He contended, however, that his party would continue "in a democratic process in Kirkuk and Baghdad to avoid any problems" by disrupting the political process in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Turkoman Front's representative in Syria, Ersad Salih, claimed that Kurdish leaders Mas'ud Barzani and Jalal Talabani were trying to transform the demographics of the city. Barzani and Talabani "have never hidden their demands or ambitions for a Kurdish state. They will not achieve their goal right now, but after they take part in the government that will be formed in Baghdad, Kirkuk will become more Kurdish," he said.

Salih also accused the United States and Kurdish leaders of conspiring to influence the outcome of the national elections, kurdistanobserver.com reported on 16 February. Salih said that Turkomans faired poorly in National Assembly elections because of the security situation in Tel Afar and Mosul, which prevented Turkoman voters from reaching polling centers. The Iraqi Turkoman Front garnered 93,480 votes in that election, or three assembly seats. The Kurdish list got 2,175,551 votes for the National Assembly, or 75 seats.

Turkish officials in Ankara also decried the election results, claiming that "imbalances" skewed the Kirkuk election, U.K. daily "The Guardian" reported on 15 February. "Some people are looking the other way while mass migration takes place," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, in an apparent jab at the United States. "This is going to create major difficulties in the future," he added.

Meanwhile, the issue of resettlement of displaced Kurds continues to move at a snail's pace. Kirkuk Deputy Governor Isma'il Haddidi told RFI in a 17 February interview that the Property Claims Commission established by the Coalition Provisional Authority to work out settlement disputes among Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans in the city has "until now, not come out with any satisfactory result." Citizens have been filing their complaints through the cabinet and governorate council, he said, but despite two years, and growing frustration from claimants, no cases have been resolved. He implied that the problem lies with the Property Claims Commission, saying, "We have demanded that the structure and staff composition be revised." Haddidi added that the resolution of some disputed homes and property will pose a challenge for the commission, since some have been sold to third parties. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RFI INTERVIEWS AL-SADR AIDE ON CLERIC'S POSITION. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) Baghdad correspondent Salma Mikha'il interviewed Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji, aide to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on 15 February.

RFI: Sheikh Abd al-Hadi al-Darraji, director of the media office in the Bureau of Martyr al-Sadr [Maktab al-Shahid al-Sadr], said in an exclusive interview for our radio that an official statement [in the name] of Muqtada al-Sadr will be issued in a few days that will explain his attitude to [his possible] participation in drafting the constitution.

Al-Darraji: Regarding the issue of drafting the future constitution, we have the [same] opinion as we had regarding the Governing Council and the [interim constitution of Iraq known as the] Transitional Administrative Law. We also had a negative and rejecting attitude regarding the [interim] cabinet [because it had been] named by the occupiers. So we did not participate in the elections. Not at all. There have been talks and consultations coming from the [interim] cabinet that has called on holding meetings with the forces that had been refusing the occupation and the forces that had boycotted the elections and did not participate in them. [The interim cabinet has invited these forces] to drafting the constitution. But the religious authority [of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] just issued a verdict yesterday that the constitution must fully comply with Islamic government and that Islamic government is the essential legislative source for drafting the constitution.

I would say that we will be discussing and talking about this issue as soon as a statement is issued in a few days, God willing, by His Excellency the leader Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr where he will explain the nuances of drafting the constitution and [decide] whether we will or will not participate.

RFI: Sheikh al-Darraji assured that the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr have not changed their conviction that "any political process running under the occupation" cannot be considered as legitimate.

Al-Darraji: I am convinced that there is the [still valid] slogan that we pronounced and insisted on: "Any political process running under the occupation is definitely illegitimate," because of this reason [that the occupation continues]. We insist that the occupiers must leave Iraq. After that, an Iraqi constitution can be drafted, an Iraqi government can be formed, Iraqi laws [can be laid down], and an Iraqi state [can be established]. But [if all this was in process] under the occupation, I believe that the occupation will for sure have a direct effect on the process of drafting the constitution, exactly as [Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul] Bremer's decrees effected drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law, which was a deception on Iraqis.

In the end, we may give our approval [to the future constitution] that we did not give to the Transitional Administrative Law. Or, we may also refuse the [future] constitution to be drafted. Nevertheless, we hope that the religious authority [of Ayatollah al-Sistani] will directly confirm that the [future] constitution must be based on Islamic government. We have been saying that it must be based on Islamic government. Islam must be the rule. That does not mean that we would like to neglect the rights of others. On the contrary, we will give the minorities all their rights because Islam treats all equally in this regard. (Translated by RFI's Petr Kubalek)

RFI INTERVIEWS INTERIM DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER BARHAM SALIH. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) Baghdad correspondent Ahmad al-Zubaydi spoke with Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih on 13 February. Salih said in the interview, broadcast on the following day, that he was pleased with the outcome of the election.

RFI: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih described the announced results of the elections in Iraq as an important historic event. He said that in an exclusive interview to our radio.

Salih: It is undoubtedly a historic period and an important historic event. We see the results of free pluralistic democratic elections in Iraq being announced, an event coming for the first time in our history. No violence has occurred between the parties that were competing for the parliament seats. I am definitely satisfied at this moment. But at the same time, I remember the martyrs and the victims of the bygone regime [of Saddam Hussein]. It makes me feel the great historic responsibility to transform these results into a starting point for building a new Iraq where Saddam Hussein's atrocities and tyranny would not be repeated.

RFI: There are rumors that the Kurds have created a coalition with the [candidates] list No. 169 [the United Iraqi Alliance] in exchange for giving Jalal Talabani the post of the president of the republic.

Salih: I can assure you that this news is bare of truth. There have been alliances among those who had belonged to the opposition against Saddam Hussein. Those are alliances based on specific political principles. When entering the new parliament, we will form alliances with all forces that support the project of a democratic Iraq and aim at completing the process of [drafting] the constitution, dealing with the economic reality of Iraq, and eliminating any actions that would try to deepen antagonisms among the Iraqi people. What we need most in this period is the national unity in facing terrorism, the national unity for serving Iraqi citizens and providing them with benefit from Iraqi sources. (Translated by RFI's Petr Kubalek)

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