Iraq: February 14, 2005


The January 30 election results were finally announced. As expected, the Shia Arab party backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the United Iraqi Alliance, won the most votes, and according to the Iraqi system, gets 140 (51 percent) of the 275 seats in the legislature. You need two-thirds of the seats to control the government. So the United Iraqi Alliance will have to make a deal with other parties to get enough votes to form a government.

The Iraqi electoral system has each party running nation-wide with a list of candidates that could fill every seat in the legislature. The candidates are ranked on the list, meaning that the first 140 candidates on the United Iraqi Alliance get seats in the legislature. 

The Kurdish list got 75 seats (27 percent). The list backed by outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi got 40 seats (15 percent). Thus the three largest parties control 93 percent of the seats. Some 58 percent of eligible Iraqis voted, or 8.5 million people. Only about ten percent of the Sunni Arabs voted, because many were scared off by the terrorists (who are almost entirely Sunni Arabs.)

The rest of the seats are controlled by a number of smaller parties. This included the Iraqiyoun list of outgoing Iraqi president Ghazi Yawer got five seats. The Iraqi Turkmen Front list got three seats. The National Independent Cadres and Elite list, backed by Shia radical cleric Moqtada Sadr got three seats. The People's Union (communist) list got two seats. The Kurdistan Islamic Group (representing the Islamic conservatives among the Kurds, who are otherwise pretty secular) got two seats. The Shia Arab Islamic Action Organisation in Iraq-Central Direction list got two seats. The National Democratic Alliance of Abed Faisal Ahmed got one seat, as did the National List of Mesopotamia (Christians) and the Reconciliation and Liberation Gathering of Sunni Mishaan Juburi.

The main job of this legislature is to write a new Iraqi constitution. But the legislators will also form a new government. The new government will make decisions on how to deal with things the Iraqi people consider most important. At the top of the list is security and jobs. The Sunni Arab terrorists are killing one or two dozen people a day with their attacks. In a third of the country (central Iraq), where Sunni Arabs (about 20 percent of the population) live, the terrorists threaten everyone. Kurds and Shia Arabs living in these areas want safety, and often revenge as well. 

The terrorists openly speak of sparking a civil war, which the terrorists believe will enable them to take power. This is a very long shot, but Islamic radicalism was never big on logic and clear thinking. Kurds and Shia Arabs, who are 80 percent of the population, and control 90 percent of the seats in the new legislature, want to integrate Sunni Arabs into the new Iraq, while at the same time destroying the terrorist organizations (a collection of Saddam supporters and Islamic radicals from al Qaeda). This could get ugly if there is not a lot of cooperation from the Sunni Arab population. Some of the Shia Arab tribes want the new government to allow the tribal militias to apply vigilante justice to the Sunni Arabs. This would be nasty. Shia Arabs know thousands of individual Sunni Arabs who committed atrocities in Saddams name over the last few decades. These men have families, and many of these families are large, and belong to large and powerful Sunni Arab tribes. The ancient law of revenge means that the vigilante approach quickly turns into tribal warfare. This is what the Sunni Arab terrorists want, and everyone else does not. In the next few weeks, the new Iraqi government will make decisions that will indicate what kind of solutions will be applied to the terrorism.

The Sunni Arab violence has hurt the economy as well, but an even larger problem is the corruption that has always been a part of the local culture. Between the crooked government officials, and the criminal gangs, its hard to run an efficient business. So the locals adapt and run inefficient businesses. But these operations cannot compete internationally, and guarantee a low standard of living for most Iraqis. This is no secret to most Iraqis, but no one has a sure-fire solution to it either. 


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