Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Another Uncomfortable Dose of Reality

The first preliminary election results have been announced in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the vote appears to be split almost totally along religious/sectarian lines. The religious Shiite dominated United Iraqi Alliance will again be the largest party. In Salahuddin, the only Sunni province to have released significant preliminary results, it looks like the main Sunni groups have received over 80% of the votes cast. Kurds have again voted overwhelmingly for the Kurdish list. Ex-interim prime minister, and one time Washington favourite, Iyad Allwai's secular coalition has come nowhere, it appears.

The leaders of the main Sunni coalition, the Iraqi Accord Front, have not reacted well to these preliminary results. (The IAF is one of the two coalitions I mentioned last week. Any hope of stability in Iraq rests to a large extent on the IAF's reaction to these elections and the subsequent government.) In fact, it's probably fair to say they have reacted extremely badly:
"We reject these results announced by the commission," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, one of the leaders of the front. If the commission does not take steps to restore justice to other lists, we will demand a new election be held."

Tarik al-Hashimi, secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, warned the commission "not to play with fire".

"We will not remain with our arms crossed and we will not abandon those who voted for us," said Khalaf al-Ulayyan, leader of the third party in the bloc, the Iraqi National Dialogue Council.
Reuters has more:
Sunni Arab politician Hussein al-Falluji, a leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front which came a distant second in Baghdad with 19 percent, gave a veiled warning that disappointment could prompt Sunni Arab rebels to return to violence.

Arguing that the Front should have been credited with twice as many seats in the city, he told Reuters: "We will not accept this. We will go to the streets and call for demonstrations. "We might also boycott the new parliament."

Falluji added: "The insurgents have had an informal truce for five days to give us a chance to vote ... but I think what is going on now will impact on security ... very quickly."
This, I hardly need tell anyone, is not good.

There's obviously a temptation to question the validity of these allegations and to dismiss them as the sour grapes of sore losers. At this stage, it's hard to see how anyone could actually know whether there's any truth to them or not but that's really beside the point. There's a very real sense in which the truth or otherwise of these allegations is entirely irrelevant. What matters in Iraq, as I've said many times before, is what people believe.

If the majority of Sunnis believe that the vote was rigged against them, and if Sunni politicians do boycott the new government because of those beliefs, it will seriously undermine any chance there might be of stability in Iraq. These elections are the final step in the political process. If it doesn't work, there is no next stage.

In fact, you might say that these elections were the last throw of the coalition dice. We needed a six. At this early stage, it looks highly unlikely that we're going to get it.

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