Saturday, January 31, 2009

NYT examines provincial elections and offers special online features

Today's New York Times contains a photo by Johan Spanner on the front page that's captioned "Iraq Gets Ready to Vote. People were rallying in Baghdad as Saturday's provincial elecitons neared with 14,428 candidates vying for 440 seats. Page A5." (It's the national edition.) In the photo, the backs of two security forces (not US) are seen and between them you see an Iraqi male holding a campaign poster up in the air and staring at them.

Inside the paper, A5 is devoted to Iraq (which isn't enough if you contrast that with the non-stop US election coverage). Three candidates get profiled. Sam Dagher profiles Zeinab Sadiq Jaafar (all three candidates have their photos printed, by the way -- noted because some women running for offices are not allowing photos due to safety concerns) and she's an attorney running in Basra:

Over the last month, she hunted for votes in the city's worst neighborhoods. An independent, Ms. Jaafar makes the case that she is an "authentic" daughter of Basra who better understands her city's anxieties and needs. She empahsizes that unlike many candidates, she is not backed by some big shot from Baghdad. She also wants to prove that women can compete and win in politics in Iraq on their own merit.

Alissa J. Rubin profiles Haithem Ahmed Alam Khalaf who is a "38-year-old sheik" and is running in Abu Ghriab. He says:

There were many violations of human rights in our area by the Iraqi Army; it is better now, but honestly, the official departments of the government were not at the level we were expecting.

He's an "Awakening." Timothy Williams profiles Khalid Shakar al-Dulaimi who is a 44-year-old man running in Baghdad and is running as a member of the Gathering of Iraqi Nationalists and Labor. He states:

The Sunnis and Shiite religious parties failed their opprotunity and involved the country in unrest. People want new faces and new ideas.

That's in the last entry as well and I couldn't find a link. We can provide a link to this which is the paper's liveblog of the election.

A5 also contains graphs. Structure of Iraq's Government, Council seats, etc. And two articles. Timothy Williams contributes "A Calmer Iraq Prepares for Another Try at the Ballot" and it notes the figures, 440 seats up for grabs, 14,428 candidates and his guess that the campaign posters will be the visual image of these elections (while the ink stained fingers were the visual in 2005). He covers expectations as well.

Alissa J. Rubin and Sam Dagher offer "Sadr, Insurgency Icon, Is Silent But Backers Work Behind Scenes." While Moqtada al-Sadr has no slate of candidates per se, "the movement is backing two parties." Where is al-Sadr? No one knows. The reporters write:

In many ways, it seem the movement is trying to regain its relevance and transform itself into something like the American lobbying group MoveOn -- a group that candidates and parties seek out for support, but that is not a party itself.

The word Rubin and Dagher are too kind to use is "party organ." And, if like MoveOn, the candidate that 'wins' the endoresement (in the rigged process) is the one that does the biggest insult. That's an interesting take on Rubin and Dahger's part but it's not reflected by wisdom in the State Dept. The consensus seems to be that no one knows. There's a strand that believes al-Sadr's influencing the elections under the radar, there's a strand that believes he's in Iran and not intending to come back (at least any time soon), and there's a strand that sees him in a state of flux where ever he is. Rubin and Dagher may be correct but why they make the conclusion that they do isn't clear in the article. I'm not really seeing -- maybe I'm missing it -- an acknowledgement by the reporters that al-Sadr is the movement. That is even more so post his speaking out against al-Maliki's slaughter on Basra in March. The refusal of the US to curb the puppet allowed the then-fading al-Sadr to increase his political power.

And for those who would prefer audio, click here and scroll down the left side of the page for Alissa J. Rubin offering analysis of the players.

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