Free Iraqi

I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!

Friday, November 04, 2005

The December elections.

After the results of the January elections appeared, many Iraqis who were hoping for a democratic Iraq were discouraged. The results not only showed a significant dominance by the religious She'at parties but also gave a serious warning sign that democracy, while what the vast majority of Iraqis want, still may divide Iraq into three small countries or lead to a civil war given that the decades of oppression mainly directed towards the Sche'at and Kurds may cause these two to always vote along sectarian and ethnic lines, which subsequently would cause the Sunnis, who are till that time seemed to be living in the past and not accepting the fact that they've lost power, to vote similarly.

I myself was very discouraged during that time and started having serious doubts that democracy would ever work in Iraq. My best thoughts in the beginning were that we needed a civil war. I thought that it was probably inevitable once the Americans leave and may in the end convince everyone that the only way to succeed is to accept and tolerate each other instead of trying to dominate or isolate themselves. A couple of things gave me hope though, the fact that we have another election coming soon and that the elected government was doing terrible.

What I thought at that time and what I still think now is that there are three factors and three men in Iraq now who can influence and change the fate of Iraq more than others depending on their attitude towards this election. With other factors considered, I believe these three men have the greater effect and most of our hopes for the short term depend on how they handle these elections. These are in order of their role's significance are Allawi, Chalabi and Mithal Al Alousi.

Allawi's role is, as I believe, the most important and it shows also through the repeated assassination attempts against him, not all of them at least were done by terrorists but most likely by religious She'at parties, particularly the last one in Basra. Allawi, being a secular She'at and a leader who managed to show a firm personality in public was the choice of most Sunnis who were able and wanted to vote in the last elections. He also got many votes from She'at and I even know some Kurd friends who voted for him.
I thought at that time that if Allawi manages to attract a considerable number of Sunni parties or at least one of the major ones, he'd be creating a block in the parliament that is not She'at or Sunni or Kurd, which I believe is badly needed.

Things were not really good at Allawi's days but they were still much better in the minds of many Iraqis than al Ja'fari current government's policies, and that includes many who voted for the "Coalition List". This is something I've heard from many secular She'at who still voted for the "Coalition List" in the last elections saying they regret that vote and would vote for Allawi the next elections. Why seculars would vote for religious parties? I think for two reasons. One is that loyalty to the She'at sect is more a loyalty to a social group rather than a religious one. It's more a political stand to support your community rather than a religious one. Oppression seems to have this effect on religious groups and they become more like an ethnic group as the oppression continues for a long time. The other reason is the second man, Chalabi.

Many secular She'at seem to have thought, or convinced themselves to justify their vote, that Chalabi's presence in the "Coalition List" makes it a non-religious gathering. Also Chalabi was always known to be the hardest on hunting down the Ba'athists, something most She'at, religious and secular think that other politicians were being soft on.
My thoughts were that if Chalabi leaves the coalition list that list would look very bad in the eyes of all seculars including She'at and would probably cause other secular parties regardless of their origin to unite against it in case it got many seats in the parliament.

It may look strange to many that I consider a man like Mithal Al Alousi as a significant player in Iraq's politics and it was even stranger months ago. There are reasons why I believe this guy will have a major effect on Iraq's politics in the near future. While still not as well-known or popular as Allawi or even Chalabi, the man and since he was expelled by Chalbi from the "National Accordance" following his visit to Israel has been gaining support very rapidly. When he started his own party "The Democratic Iraqi Nation Party" a year ago he had only 1600 members in it. Today, only in Hilla he has 15000 registered members in his party. He's a secular Sunni that gained a lot of support in the south among She'at. That's something that gives hope. Moreover, and to me this is the most important point, he's the only Iraqi politician who says it loud and clear all the time that Iraq's interests lie in a strong strategic alliance with the United States and the free world, and people are not pushed away by that or by his visit to Israel for that matters but in fact it's having the opposite effect!

As I look at it now, Allawi has managed to attract some good number of Sunni figures including the ex-president al Yawir. Even the ex-Ba'athist well-known Sunni politician Salih al Mutlag who was against both governments and against the constitution said lately that he's most likely going to join Allawi.

On the other hand Chalabi did leave the coalition list. He says it's because he doesn't want a theocracy, they say they sacrificed him to win Sadr. I think both are not being honest about it but I also think that the coalition list made a huge strategic blunder if they're saying the truth even if the Sadirists will win them more votes than Chalabi as a single party in these elections.

Mithal represents the path I think Iraq should follow and he's doing pretty well but unfortunately he lacks the resources other less capable politicians have. His party (mine) is still not able to publish a newspaper! They published it once but couldn't go on because of the shortage in money. Still he's getting a reasonable publicity through TV stations and is doing very well in talk shows always embarrassing other politicians and exposing their hypocrisy.
These three men have another advantage over other parties. They're the only ones who so far have outlined their election campaign to focus mainly on local issues particularly economy. Allawi is promising more jobs, better electricity and better health care, Chalabi is promising a share of the oil revenue to each citizen delivered monthly and Mithal is promising more transparency in handling Iraq's economy and also to increase the number of items and the quality of the food ration. Other parties are still babbling about over-used slogans like "independence" and a "strong Iraq" that have stopped to mean anything to the average Iraqis who have much more urgent daily needs.

With these factors considered, the main element that will change Iraq's fate remains by far the brave and smart Iraqis who may have followed their emotions in the start but that's changing now. A committed Sunni relative of mine said to me while we were talking about the next elections and the general situation, "I'm sorry Ali, this time I won't vote for you, I'll vote either for Allawi or Mithal" I told him that we have joined Mithal and he seemed to be relieved that he was going to vote for someone he believes in and still not breaching his commitment to his family or tribe. He didn't know how happy and optimistic he made me seeing that he was using his brain, not what traditions, sectarian or tribal laws tell him, to decide on what he thinks is good for him, his family and his country.