In this morning's New York Times, Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy offer "Iraqi Officials Concerned That Absence of Shiite Pilgrims Could Affect Elections." It is not as in-depth as the coverage Alissa J. Rubin has offered the previous two days and one sentence is confusing.
Due to the Shi'ite pilgrimage in honor of Imam Hussein, it is feared some Shi'ites may miss out out on voting in the provincial elections. The provincial elections will be held in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces, whether you are a pilgrim or an internally displaced Iraqi, you can only vote in your own province. Election day is Saturday, January 31st (though there is some form of early voting which has already started).
Let's move to the confusing section:
He added that this [possible decreased voting pool due to the pilgrimage] would be particularly hard on independent candidates, because they were not as well organized as the Shiite religious parties that dominated politics in southern Iraq.
"He" is independent candidate Hakim al-Mayahi. While it is true that the small number participating in polling have indicated a preference for non-sectarian candidaes, this is not an overwhelming presence and it doesn't necessarily mean a damn thing.
What's being predicted is that candidates not alligned with extremists (Sunni or Shia) will fare better in this election cycle than they did in 2005. That may end up being the case but it may not and nothing is known at this point.
To stick with the polling response -- and the sample size has not been encouraging (we're talking about real polling, not the random interviews that the Los Angeles Times did for a story this week -- and LAT didn't present that as a poll). But the segment that is saying, "I'm tired of the bickering between Shi'ites and Sunnis" or "a pox on both of them" may end up being not all that different from US citizens polled who state "I'm tired of ___" and then go on to vote the exact same way because while they're tired of Congress they generally make an exception for their own member of Congress.
When you take the comments being made about some rejecting the religious extremists and put them in that light, it should cause a number of people to stop suggesting that indications (at best, indications) are facts of the final tally discovered before the election took place.
So with all that in mind, if a Shi'ite pilgrimage is taking place and it may result in many Shia not being able to participate in voting, the most likely candidates to suffer would be Shia candidates. Not independents. And that likelihood is why, as the article explains, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is asking that people vote before leaving on their pilgrimage.
For any wanting sympathy due to the scheduling conflict, it's hard to muster any. The government is Shi'ite controlled and this is a Shi'ite pilgrimage. This isn't a case where a religious minority is being punished or disenfranchised if they practice their religion. This is another example of how ineffective and idiotic the puppet government is: they were so eager to please their American puppet masters that they didn't even take a moment to consider the calendar.
Tina Susman and Raheem Salman's "Iraq Communists campaign with vigor" (Los Angeles Times) examines one of Iraq's political parties:
In a nation where religious parties dominate and many people dream of a wealthy life in the West, it's not easy being a Communist. But that doesn't seem to worry the enthusiastic comrades buzzing about the party's sprawling four-story headquarters. After decades on the sidelines or behind bars, they are banking on disenchantment with the religious parties now in power, and a wariness of freewheeling Western capitalism, to lift their fortunes in provincial elections Saturday.
"In the past five years, the people have begun to understand that these political parties failed to achieve what people were hoping for," said Abdul Munim Jabber Hadi, wearing a blood-red tie and gray suit as he prepared to go out campaigning Sunday.
Hadi is one of 27 Communist Party candidates vying for seats on Baghdad's 57-member provincial council. He is not expecting most of his fellow Communists to prove victorious.
The party won two seats on the council four years ago in the last provincial elections, and the 275-member national parliament has two Communists. So it will take time to build power, explained Hadi, an exuberant man with a thick gray mustache.
And Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) focuses on region, Nineveh Province, which has been a source of tension for some time and which has the city that's emerged in 2008 as the most violent in Iraq: Mosul. From Londono's article:
As Election Day looms in Nineveh province, where the most dramatic power shift is expected, Sunni Arab politicians are vowing to curb the influence of the Kurdish regional government, which in recent years has sent millions of dollars and thousands of soldiers into villages south of the territory it formally controls.
The 2005 elections, which most Sunni Arabs boycotted, left Nineveh province solidly in the hands of Kurds, a minority in the predominantly Arab province. The Kurds currently hold 31 of the 37 seats on the provincial council, the equivalent of an American state legislature. In the vote set for Saturday, Arabs in Nineveh are widely expected to win a comfortable majority.
Taking the reins of Nineveh's government would allow Arabs to appoint a governor and use their political power to roll back Kurdish expansion, which is being bitterly contested in villages across the 300-mile swath of disputed territories, as well as in Baghdad and in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Arab, and Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, have exchanged heated accusations in recent weeks, underscoring the intensity of a conflict that U.S. officials and Iraq experts have come to view as Iraq's most potentially destabilizing.
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