Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Apr 26th, 2010

Ruling Throws Iraq Election in Turmoil

Panel invalidates votes; Sunni-backed alliance lead in doubt

By Suadad al-Salhy and Ahmed Rasheed

April 25, 2010

BAGHDAD — A review panel on Monday invalidated votes cast for 52 candidates in Iraq’s election, throwing into doubt the slim lead of a Sunni-backed alliance and setting the stage for a possible spike in sectarian violence.

Electoral officials and politicians said Monday’s decision may not alter the final outcome of the election, but a more significant ruling was expected on Tuesday, when the panel considers the fate of six to nine winning candidates.

The developments could raise tensions at a vulnerable time, with Iraq adrift in a political vacuum almost two months after the inconclusive March 7 vote, and U.S. troops preparing to end combat operations in August ahead of a full withdrawal by 2011.

Former prime minister Iyad Allawi, whose cross-sectarian Iraqiya alliance won a slim lead with strong support from the Sunni minority, said his coalition would fight the ruling while some of his allies said they might seek a new election. …

Leaders demand U.N. intervention

Allawi and other Iraqiya leaders demanded U.N. intervention. …

Iraqiya won 91 seats, just two ahead of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, which would gain the most from any upheaval in the final result.

At least one of those barred on Monday for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party was a winner for Iraqiya. …

Sunni rage feared

The invalidation of votes comes before the expected start next week of a recount in Baghdad, which could also change the result and enrage Sunnis who saw Iraqiya’s success as a vindication of their claim to greater political clout.

Sunnis’ resentment at their fall from power after the ousting of Sunni dictator Saddam in 2003 helped fuel the bloody sectarian war and a fierce Sunni Islamist-led insurgency.

Iraqis had hoped the election would help the war-damaged country cement improved security and stability.

Instead, the lack of a clear result has spawned protracted political uncertainty as the Shi’ite-led, Sunni-backed and Kurdish factions try to negotiate tie-ups that would allow them to gain a working majority and pick the next government. …


4/28/10 Update

Iraqi Prime Minister Gambling Countrys Security

Image: Nouri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
(Photo: Nabil al-Jurani / AP file)

Analysis by Baghdad bureau chief Rebecca Santana

April 28, 2010

BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to retain power despite his failure in last month’s elections threaten to undercut the democratic process that has been hailed as a key achievement of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

He is also potentially gambling away the country’s security with steps that, if successful, are certain to leave Iraq’s minority Sunnis feeling cheated after they overwhelmingly backed his secular challenger, Ayad Allawi. The resulting anger could fuel new sectarian bloodshed and reinvigorate an insurgency against the country’s Shiite-dominated leadership. …

Allawi, a former prime minister, is fighting back, demanding an internationally supervised caretaker government and warning he might withdraw from the political process altogether, potentially prompting the barely contained Sunni-Shiite tensions to explode just as U.S. troops prepare to go home. …

Trying to change results

Al-Maliki has vigorously fought the outcome, using the powers of his office and a judiciary of questionable independence to try to change the results.

He successfully pushed for a recount of the Baghdad votes — which has not yet been carried out — and benefited from a vetting panel targeting former members of Saddam Hussein’s ruling party that has set its sights on several of Allawi’s candidates. Either tactic could tilt the election outcome in al-Maliki’s favor. …

Allawi called on international organizations like the U.N., the Arab League, the EU and the Organization of Islamic Conference to help establish an impartial interim government, and a spokesman said his Iraqiya coalition would consider quitting the political process altogether or demand a repeat election if its demands are not met. …

It was always going to take a long time to form a government in Iraq, a fractious country in which every political decision deteriorates into a showdown, but what is surprising to many is the degree to which al-Maliki has battled results even before the negotiating for the new government has started. …

Sore loser?

In some ways, al-Maliki is simply a sore loser, some Iraqi politicians say privately.

But the cost of his political machinations could be extremely high. Sunnis were outraged after the news last week of a secret prison run by Iraqi forces that mostly held Sunnis.

In a report released Wednesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Iraqi men held for months at the prison were systematically tortured, including some beaten so badly they lost teeth and urinated blood for days. Others were raped, given electric shocks to their genitals and deprived of air, the report said.

The Iraqi government quickly shut down the prison after the torture was revealed by the Los Angeles Times and either released or transferred its 431 detainees. The government has denied al-Maliki had any knowledge of the facility and vowed to investigate the abuses.

But many Sunnis see the prison as proof the Shiite-dominated government is persecuting them and has changed little since the days when Shiite death squads roamed the city. …


5/16/10 Update

Iraq Recount Affirms Win for Sunni-Backed Bloc

By Sameer N. Yacoub

May 16, 2010

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s electoral commission affirmed on Sunday the narrow victory of a Sunni-backed bloc in the March vote after a partial recount undercut the Shiite prime minister’s claims of fraud in the tally.

The result was a setback for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who came in second to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi by a small margin. But his alliance with another Shiite bloc still gives him a strong chance of holding on to power for another four years.

Though the results were a setback for al-Maliki, they did not hand Allawi the mandate to form the next government. Instead, al-Maliki now appears to be in an even better position than he was roughly two weeks ago when the recount began.

His coalition hammered out an agreement with another Shiite bloc, the Iranian-backed Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two are only four seats short of needed majority.

If the already-bickering coalition holds together, it is almost certain to form the next government, possibly cutting out Allawi’s list altogether and fueling Shiite anger that could lead to more sectarian violence. …


Related reports on this site

Pro-Iran Pact Emerges in Iraq (May 5, 2010)

Iraq Election Turmoil (April 26, 2010)

Al-Qaida in Iraq Decapitated (April 21, 2010)

Bloody Easter in Baghdad (April 4, 2010)

Muqtada al-Sadr on the March (March 31, 2010)

Iraq Election Results (March 26, 2010)

Iraq Election Violence (March 8, 2010)

Iraq Election Preview (March 6, 2010)

Iraq Set to Elect Pro-Iran Leader (Feb. 25, 2010)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 26, 2009

Flu Pandemic Fear Spreads in U.S.

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a public health emergency in connection with the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak that had already killed dozens in Mexico and sickened 20 in the U.S.

14 Responses to “Iraq Election Turmoil”
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