Iraq after elections, deepened rifts [Archives:2005/907/Opinion]

December 29 2005

By: Hosam Sirri
Now that the parliamentary election in Iraq haven taken place in a, generally peaceful atmosphere and a relatively high turnout, the outcomes are rather disappointing. The initial results announced by the Supreme Commission of Elections showed a large victory for the (Shiite Islamic alliance) Slate, while the Sunni and the secular slates did not achieve much in the results. The Kurdish slate, on the other hand, came out as expected, since it did not face a serious competition in the Kurdish scene. The bottleneck is that the election results, as it seems, puts the nation back on the confrontation track.

New alliances are in the creation now. And there are many choices for each party. The Kurds will side with whoever shows inclination to work with them toward achieving their goals. While the Sunnis are willing to work with whoever seems to be ready to offer them a fair position in the new regime, they violently resist being marginalized. And they are concerned about the growing Iranian influence in Iraq. The Shiites, on their part, believe they regained their just full right in ruling the country in which they are a majority. Now it seems that the Sectarians and the Sunnis have a common goal and it is in their interest to ally together in the face of the large Shiite block. Moreover, while the Shiite government has the official armed forces support with the help of their parties' militias, the Sunnis believe that their power comes from supporting the well-trained and well formed resistance to enable them upset and undermine any gain achieved by the Shiites. This falls in the hands of Al-Zarqawi movement that will benefit from such disagreement. Considering this, the American position seems very hard. They need to achieve elections results acceptable to all and to lead to a stable Iraq so that they are able to withdraw a main portion of their forces. They cannot leave while the country is in such a shamble state. And reaching an acceptable solution is not an easy one. They need the help of the region's powers to put pressure on the Iraqis to reach a just and acceptable agreement.

But what could be the main reasons behind the current situation in Iraq? For one, even though the Sunnis voted in large numbers yet, most women in the rural Sunni areas did not, due to social traditions, which consider that women should not take part in politics. In addition to the unstable security situation in most Sunni areas that made people refrain from venturing to go to vote.

Yet, a sizable number of Sunnis did not take part in the election because they think the election under occupation is illegitimate, in which they meet with the resistance point of view. And many Sunni rural areas with very few or did not have sufficient ballot boxes. On the other hand, many boxes were located in far away areas, which make it hard for the voters to go to the polling stations. Another reason could be attributed to the fact that some Sunnis refused to participate in the voting process out of the belief that the election by itself is illegitimate while fighting is still raging in Sunni areas and towns. Even though the Secular block crosses the sectarian barrier, but it did not make much of headway because most of the sectarians are urban residents who, in general represent the intelligentsia and technocrats. They generally mistrust the election and its outcome because it is taking place under foreign rule.

On the other hand, the Shiites went in huge numbers to the election polls, in response to the call from their religious leader who ordered them to vote and told them that taking part in the election is a religious duty. While on the contrary, the Sunni theology does not have religious hierarchy that has the right to interfere in their daily lives. Most of the Shiite voters were from the rural areas where education is limited, as well as from cities poor areas, such people follow the instructions of their religious leaders and many Shiites voted for fear that if they do not they will be outcaste by their follow Shiite sect.

As for the cheating and rigging in the election there are many accusations of violations, whether right or wrong, they are forming a big block. While Mr. Hakeem warned before the election from wrecking the ballots (if his alliance losses) he did not complain when they won. There are accusations against the independent electoral body of not being fair and just. Such an accusation led a number of its members to resign their posts.

Hosam Sirri is a journalist and political analyst in Iraq