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I am a public health doctor who is cynically optimistic about most things.

A hung political process

While speaking to my cousin from Iraq the other day, conversation inevitably turned to the elections – both Iraqi and British. He was quite in favour of the ‘hung’ parliament that people were warning about here and felt a similar hanging of MPs should happen in Iraq. There was obviously something lost in translation here  and the misunderstanding was cleared up much to his disappointment.

While David Cameron can warn of the dire consequences of a hung parliament and Gordon Brown about Tories eating people’s babies, the situation is rather different in Iraq. Politicians on all sides have repeatedly ratcheted up tensions both before and after the elections in a selfish attempt at gaining political advantage and seriously undermining the fragile security situation.

Some political blocks have been more guilty of this than others. I had the misfortune of being signed up to a certain political block’s mailing list (without my consent) but decided to remain on there as the press releases were quite hilarious, here is a sample of a few of them:

March 11: There have been suspicious delays in announcing the election results in Iraq, amid fears that extensive efforts are underway to distort the real outcome of the poll… Following the illegal expulsion of over 500 secular, anti-sectarian candidates on trumped-up de-Baathification charges and endless accounts of violence, intimidation and blatant fraud throughout the poll, I (MEP Struan Stevenson) fear that the mullah’s regime in Tehran may now be trying to install a puppet Prime Minister in Iraq.

March 17: …Influential ruling party candidates roam the rooms of the Electoral Commission for elections, specifically counting rooms and large number of ballot cards bearing the flag of Iraq have been thrown in the trash baskets in a number of Iraqi provinces…

March 23: x have falsely accused y of fraud without any evidence as an attempt to excuse their failure in winning the majority of votes. The spokesperson also added that y is already being congratulated by Iraqis and by its partners for its victory, and hopes that those who resorted to smear campaigning, defaming statements and false accusations to take on moral values and nobly accept defeat.

April 20: Since the first day of y bloc’s victory in the parliamentary elections, certain political groups have been issuing statements with the aim of downplaying y‘s results, which give it every right to form the next government according to the constitution. And despite all attempts of marginalization and arrests made as well as the constant fear mongering, y bloc expressed its acceptance of the results produced by the elections.

April 23: This decision (vote manual recount) came as a surprise to the Iraqi people, especially after the international community represented by the Security Council, League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference confirmed that the elections held on the seventh of March were sound and met international standards. Therefore, there was no need whatsoever for such a decision to be taken.

I would have probably got the reverse set of press releases if I was signed up to their rival bloc but thankfully I don’t think they’re as organised. The irresponsible threats and scare-mongering that has gone on over the past weeks has really made me question whether any political party has the interests of Iraqis at heart. Inflated egos, political games and self-interest remain at the forefront of the Iraqi political impasse and this is unlikely to be resolved soon… back to the UK TV debates then.

7 Comments on “A hung political process”

  1. Ali D April 30, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    “much to his disappointment” – absolute genius.

  2. Safwan Mudhafar April 30, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Dear Ali,

    I think it is a natural reaction to the abuse of power carried out by X, and it seems Y have no other way of dealing with these violations other than issuing statements.

    As for you thinking X being less organised, I would have to disagree with you on that, as it seems X are extremely organised in manipulating the judiciary and politicising supposedly independent bodies in order for these bodies to carry out their wishes. I fail to see how these statements worsen the security situation and it would seem counterproductive to stay silent in the face of the executive having undue influence on the judiciary as well as hijacking the entire democratic process, I do not understand how allowing the the distortion of Iraq’s newly formed democracy is to the benefit of the Iraqi people as you seem to be alluding to.

    I believe that the very act of the manipulation of the system and reports about secret prisons and torture have a much more negative effect in worsening the security situation.

    Regards,

    Safwan

  3. Ali Latif April 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Safwan

    I think you may have misunderstood my issue with what’s gone on so far. It’s not about who the rightful winner is nor is it trying to deny the right to highlight concerns about the election process but it is about the way both sides have tried to portray it. My issues are:

    1. Take x and y’s stance before the election results were announced: X thinks there was nothing wrong with the electoral process. Y thinks that the process was beset with widespread abuse and fraud.

    Now look at x and y’s stance after election results were announced: X thinks there must have been significant abuse and fraud and asks for a recount. Y is happy to accept the results and resists the call for a manual recount.

    If the election results were reversed, we would see the opposite reactions from both sides. Therefore it is clear that the debate is not about the fairness of the electoral process but about political advantage. There is no consistency and BOTH sides have lost credibility in this regard. Thus I find it hard to believe either.

    2. There is also an issue of language. One can either construct the narrative in terms of highlighting suspected abuse (linked to reliable evidence) and the danger it poses to the democratic system or one can use melodramatic language and paint the picture of widespread fraud, outside interference and a compromised judiciary and IHEC. The first scenario puts the pressure on the Iraqi institutions to uphold the law and constitution in a transparent manner, the other scenario suggests that any pursuit of justice within this framework is futile and therefore it is best to opt out and resort to other means…

    What I object to is the infantile nature of the political scene so far with mutual recriminations designed to inflame rather than remedy the current impasse. My fear is that in pursuit of one or two extra seats BOTH sides are poisoning the current environment to such a degree as to provoke violence regardless of who wins.

    So objections to real abuse is welcome in a democratic society but there is also a responsibility to highlight and present it in a mature manner.

  4. Safwan April 30, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Dear Ali,

    I did understand what you had issue with, but I still do not understand how you seem to think that these statements can incite violence, and that it is not the actions that could cause the violence. No one has called on their supporters to take up arms apart from x’s veiled threat to use his authority as commander in chief. You chose to emphasise the effect of these statements and that’s what I take issue with. The second point about putting pressure on iraqi institutions, well the events and the news can tell you just how ineffective that is…

  5. Ali Latif April 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Thanks for the reply, I agree no one has blatantly urged their supporters to take up arms but sowing the seeds of mutual mistrust is not going to make the situation more stable.

    I also agree that lobbying Iraqi institutions in difficult due to lack of transparency and accountability but inflammatory statements aren’t going to solve that.

    I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree about the effects of these statements and hope things stay peaceful.

  6. Ali D May 1, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Dear Ali Latif

    With regards to point number 1 that you raised above, to my knowledge, this is not the case. ‘Y’, to begin with, made allegations of fraud and filed them. It was then up to the IHEC to look into the matter. ‘X’ vehemently denied all allegations of fraud saying that the elections were clean and fair and that international institutions were in place to monitor the process.

    As ‘Y’ went ahead in the counting, ‘X’ changed their stance completely, saying that there must have been fraud. They didn’t simply rely on the same process of filing allegations to the IHEC, as all the other parties had, but also called for a manual recount. Why should ‘X’ receive special treatment and forgo the standard processes? Irrelevant, they got their way.

    Now, at this point, did ‘Y’ change their stance? Nope- their previously filed allegations still stood. Did they even outright oppose a recount? Nope- they simply made a few observations:

    1- Why does ‘X’ get special treatment?
    2- Where have the ballot boxes been since the initial count? Under who’s supervision?
    3- Who will supervise the recount? Where are the international organisations?

    I do think the stance of some ‘letters’ has been ridiculous; The ones that DID change their stance when it suited them from a perspective of political gain.

    For the record Ali, you would have saved us all a lot of trouble had you used the real names 🙂

    Ali D

  7. Ali Latif May 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Lol, I thought it was a good idea initially but now I’ve forgotten who is x and who is y!

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