Friday, March 21, 2014

Nouri's election treachery

John Glaser ( observes, "The U.S.-backed dictator Nouri al-Maliki is ruling the country with an iron fist, putting his political opponents in jail, torturing prisoners, crushing free speech, and so on. The advocates of “democracy promotion” in Iraq, somehow, don’t have to answer for the fact that the Iraqi parliament is now considering imposing new laws that would allow girls to be forced into arranged marriages from the age of nine."

And with that as a backdrop, Iraq plans to hold parliamentary elections April 30th.  Supposedly, elections will take place in all 19 provinces (the KRG increased by 1 province last week).  But Iraqi elections, to be legitimate, must include the displaced.  And they have in the past.  In fact, Nouri's attempt to short change refugees out of the country in 2009 pushed the parliamentary elections back to 2010 (Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi used his veto power to sink the bill).  Now it's been announced that Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote.  It is stated that Syria is just too dangerous for a polling station.  Syria, Jordan and Lebanon remain the three countries with the highest number of Iraqi refugees as a result of their sharing borders with Iraq (and as a result of governments like the US leaving them stranded -- both in terms of ridiculous regulations and, in Syria, by closing down the means the refugees had to apply for admission to the US).

The editorial board of Arab News argues voting should be postponed and they recap some of the events since the 2010 parliamentary elections including this from December 2011:

[. . ] Al-Maliki began the effective demolition of the National Unity government he headed by having an arrest warrant issued for Vice-President Tareq Al-Hashimi, a Sunni. Hashimi was accused of involvement in death squads. Helped by Kurds, he fled the country, only to be tried in his absence and found guilty.
Al-Maliki pretended at the time that the prosecution was important because no one should be able to escape punishment for past crimes. But this argument was fatally weakened by the presence in his government of Shiite politicians who were equally suspected of involvement in the inter-communal violence that had threatened to tear the country apart. Besides, however terrible the crimes committed by all parties in Iraq, the country’s future could only be ensured by reconciliation. Iraq desperately needed to put its dark past behind and look to a brighter and more prosperous future.
Unfortunately Al-Maliki hardly tried to convince skeptical Sunni politicians and voters that the prosecution of Hashimi was not motivated by the fact that the vice-president was a Sunni. That this was indeed the reality has since become even more apparent as Shia legislators have moved to exclude former and serving Sunni politicians, including former Finance Minister Rafie Al-Issawi from standing in next month’s elections. Former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a Shiite, and leader of the National Iraqi Alliance, has himself warned that in the light of these moves against Sunni politicians, as well as the deteriorating security situation in the country, the vote cannot go ahead.

How did Rafea al-Isawi and others get banned?  Niqash attempts to explain it:

The Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, the authority that is supposed to prepare Iraq for elections and run electoral procedures, such as voter registration and the actual voting, recently decided to ban a number of politicians from competing in the elections. These were independent Shiite Muslim MP, Sabah al-Saedi, Shiite Muslim MP, Jawad al-Shuhaili, who is aligned with the Sadrist bloc, MP Haider al-Mulla from the mostly-Sunni Muslim Iraqiya bloc, MP Rafea al-Isawi, also a Sunni Muslim from the Iraqiya bloc and one of the country’s most senior Sunni Muslim politicians as well as a former MP, Mithal al-Alousi, who made headlines in 2004 as one of the first Iraqi politicians to visit Israel and who previously headed the de-Baathification commission.

IHEC says the reason for the ban on these politicians is because they have violated the rule about good conduct. However there are clearly some problems with this clause – many local legal and constitutional experts have already said that it is too general and that it could be used in myriad ways by the unscrupulous.

Iraqi lawyer Munir Haddad, who is perhaps best known outside the country for his time as a judge, presiding over the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, told NIQASH: “Iraqi MPs should have been more careful when they voted on this article. It’s not clearly formulated enough.”

“This paragraph is very general and it can be interpreted any way a person wants,” adds judge Abdul-Raheem al- Ukaili, who formerly worked with Iraq’s Commission on Integrity. “Unfortunately IHEC has interpreted this paragraph in an arbitrary way and it has been used against politicians who are well known for opposing the government.”

Indeed it seemed to many that the “bad behaviour” these MPs had undertaken simply involved publicly criticizing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or his allies.

“Politicians who speak about corruption in the government are now people with bad reputations,” one of the banned MPs, al-Alousi, complained to NIQASH. “There is a deliberate plan to silence al-Maliki’s opponents and to ruin democracy in Iraq. We are going to file a lawsuit at the Supreme Federal Court to defend our rights and we hope this court won’t bow to political pressure,” he argued.

"Niqash attempts to explain it"?  There's no byline.  An Iraqi offering the above has cause to worry.

One aspect not dealt with is the so-called Independent High Electoral Commission.  No one wanted to pay attention -- even though Nouri had previously attempted to take it over -- when certain people were nixed from serving.  No one wanted to pay attention as Nouri stacked the commission.

Despite his threats and his bullying, despite the fact that it was clear his attempts to take over the independent banks had already succeeded, no one wanted to pay attention.

Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

In his second media appearance since he announced his intention to quit politics, Iraqi Shi’ite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr called on the people of Iraq to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections to prevent “thieves” and “beneficiaries” from gaining power.
Sadr has been an increasingly fierce critic of embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, denouncing him earlier this month as a “dictator and a tyrant.” He has called for a series of anti-government protests each Monday, saying the Iraqi electorate should ignore “the negligence and disregard of some politicians” and participate in the forthcoming legislative elections, scheduled for April 30.
“If elections are held without the participation of patriotic and loyal voters, the unfit will inevitably make it to power,” Sadr said.

Moqtada al-Sadr remains Nouri's most formidable rival at present.

Turning to the  violence today, National Iraqi News Agency reports Diyala Province security announced they killed 12 militants, a Missan bombing left 1child dead and another injured, the army states they killed 10 suspects "south of Falluja," 2 Nimra Thmanya car bombings left 1 person dead and eleven more injured, an Alasewid Village roadside bombing left 2 police members dead, a car bombing targeting the "bridge connecting Jalawla and Kalar districts" left two people injured, 2 Dibbs car bombings left 2 people dead and twenty-six injured, a Ramadi suicide bomber targeted a funeral and took his own life and the lives of 7 mourners with twenty-three more people injured (the funeral was for a Sahwa killed yesterday), 2 Tuz Khurmatu bombings left sixteen people injured, 1 suicide tanker bomber took his own life "at the top of Hamrin Mountains" and also killed Brigadier General Raghib al-Tamimi and his assistant, and the corpse of 1 Sahwa was discovered in "the orchards along Diyala River north of Muqdadiyah."  All Iraq News adds that 13 corpses were discovered in Mujamaat ("shot in the head"),

Sameer N. Yacoub and Murtada Faraj (AP) add that the death toll increased by 2 in the attack on the Ramadi funeral and that the funeral was for Nasir al-Alawani.  On the mountaintop attack that killed Ragheb al-Omari and one of his assistants, Yacoub notes that the death toll increased by 7 for a total of nine.  (AFP goes with "killing 12 people and wounding five, including the head of the federal police, Brigadier General Raghib al-Umairi, and his assistant.")

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