Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Iraq preliminary election results

Watch the Iraqi blogs for more detailed news.

From IECI in Baghdad. The UIA is currently being reported to have won 38 of the 59 seats in Baghdad. Over 600 complaints had been reported as of 9 am Baghdad time this morning. It seems that for many in Baghdad, the math isn't adding up. There is also suspicion because the IECI had stated that it would not make public the results for two weeks. If these results are accurate it looks as though they will retain power with the expected votes coming from the south and the ability to elect the PM with a majority of seats. The National Accord Front looks to retain the second largest amount, but far from what they expected. This, of course, is putting a tremendous strain on things there, as the disparity is enough for people to believe that some fraud or voting error without a doubt took place.

This outlook isn't bright for an easy start. There will likely be a lot of infighting and tension. And there are enough 'militias' on each side to make trouble when political processes break down as they are likely going to do at times, in such a new situation. Secular Iraqis are worried that it won't take more than four years with SCIRI-types runnning the place to turn it into something too close to Iran. They feel like things are spinning away from progress. Not unlike Big Pharoah feels in this post, many of the Iraqis I know feel they don't have four more years to give to what they consider to be an Islamic Fundamentalist government. They are frustrated, they can accept that the UIA wins a plurality, but not such a large disparity as this, which was not expected as an outcome in Baghdad. They know that realistically, if it takes another election cycle or two, that isn't much in the history of time for a nation to change as much as they have. However, they have already been through exactly what Egypt is going through now, only on a more brutal scale. And that kind of experience doesn't just wash away.

Let us hope that the PEOPLE of IRAQ remember that they have the power to hold their representatives responsible, to let them know that if their interests aren't represented as promised, they can provide consequences, without the threats of violence.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Iraq's day-hope springs eternal...

I can't begin to describe my feelings tonight as I get ready for following the vote in Iraq.

I wish for the day when the beauty of the palms and sparkling rivers will be drawing the world's eyes instead of the burned cars. I wish for the day that people can see Iraq the way I do, with the eyes of a lover, omitting flaws and lingering on the beauty, not just the external, but the internal. Forgiving weaknesses and oddities borne from the years of strife and seeing the passion and determination and the goodness.

I have, as an American, been accused of being naive, overly optimisitic, and too trusting, too open. Well, I guess I wouldn't be me any other way, so I can live with that. And I've found there are Iraqis that recognize that in Americans, and they either take advantage of it, or they love you the more for it, like a child who is so in wonderment of the world that they don't always take all precautions to protect themselves. I've been lucky to find more often than not, that I've been taken under their wing and they are the most loyal friends one could wish for.

Someone asked me to post this photo (at top) a while back and I was hesitant because it is personal to me. But I do love the symbolism so I decided to share it. It is my hand entwined with one of my Iraqi friends, this was about 6 weeks after last year's election and you can see on the index fingernail two small spots of ink left from the "purple finger" as it has come to be known. This relationship, and what it represents, the thousands of Iraqis and Americans that have held hands and held each other during through the past three years says everything, about our two nations, and what is possible in this world.

Today is your day Iraq. And I'm just an observer, but I'm watching with hope beyond hope. For all of us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Day Before The Rest of Their Lives

Today in Iraq things will be tense. This isn't January elections. January was about a step in a process, it was about emotions more than anything else, it was pivotal, and it set the path, but it was not about a 4 year ruling government.

Tomorrow is much different. A four year government will be in place at the end of all the vote counting, which will take days. Everyone I know in Iraq is much more concerned about fraud because the stakes are so high.

The big question on everyone's mind is this: Will the Kurdish parties and one of the other more secular parties, primarily Allawi's, gain enough seats between them to hold in check any of the more radical religious changes that people worry the "Shiite Alliance Party" might try to implement?

This kind of report
is an example of the worries underlying the excitement on voting day this time:

"In Baghdad, the leader of the most feared of Iraq's factional militias seemed to warn of war if the Sunnis won. "We will raise our weapons as we did before if the Baathists come to power again," said Haidi Amery, leader of the officially disbanded Badr militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the Shiite religious parties brought to power in January's vote. Some in the Shiite ruling coalition invoke the name of Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath Party when referring to any Sunni or secular Iraqi, particularly Allawi."

Almost every Sunni had to enlist in the Baath party under Saddam technically or be subject to punishment ranging from blacklisting to much worse, as we know. Some bravely resisted this, or avoided it. But to do so under such a tyranny as Saddam's people outside cannot understand what that meant. Not all Sunnis are Baathists. It is one of the most misunderstood issues, as I talk to people here, average, intelligent, well educated Americans that have only read the MSM for their news, they believe all Sunnis are part of the "insurgency" and are amazed when they hear of how many Sunnis hated Saddam and his baathist ways, and hate the faction that fuels the insurgency as well. And Allawi was just as tough with support for crackdown on the area of Fallujah when he was in power, which is another reason that he is liked by many, he showed he will crack down on either sect when it comes to violence, be it a Shiite linked one or a Sunni linked one.

I know many secular or liberal Shiite that have been completely horrified by the current government in power and would like to see it change, so it's not as cut and dry as people here make it to be.

The worst thing people can do is catagorize voters in this way. I've said before, it's as reliable as predicting the "Catholic vote" here, which usually splits, some are for more liberal social and political programs because they wish that was how the Church was heading, some will vote more conservatively because of their social values, which they fear are being eroded. Yes, there are still a lot of sheep in Iraq following their flock leaders, voting as their local Cleric tells them to, especially in the villages. But also, I have heard of many that go and listen at the mosques and voice what they must out of fear, but will not vote the way they are told. After all, that is their only hope now, that someday they will not have to worry about a reprisal on them and their family for open disagreement in some areas of Iraq, where the Clerics still hold sway over entire villages.

For the 35 and under crowd, this election is especially important. They are more educated, and becoming so all the time. They are more open minded, as youth usually are, and there are many bright stars ready to raise Iraq in the next decade or two if only they feel there is a chance. Let's hope that tomorrow they will be able to give themselves that chance.

My greatest hopes and fears hinge upon tomorrow as well. If a change is not felt, not effected, I fear that following that Iraq will lose many of her best and brightest. But hope can not be killed easily for so many that have suffered so much. There is no reason that Iraq shouldn't be the leading country in the Middle East. But only they can decide to take themselves there, and we should all remember tomorrow that, after decades of tyranny, that is a victory in itself.