Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On the connection between the federalism vote and the recent escalation in violence

Al-Hayat (Wednesday October 25) quotes two Iraqi political leaders with explanations of the connection between the October 11 federalism-procedures vote and the recent escalation in violence, and one dissenter who said there isn't any such connection.

Sadrist member of parliament Baha al-Araji said it is well known that the Sadrist position is no federalism as long as there is occupation. He noted his group has pressed for passage of resolutions in parliament calling for a fixed timetable for withdrawal, and also the revocation of the infamous Order # 17 of Paul Bremer, which granted immunity from prosecution for US troops, and which helps explain a lot of the recent US attacks on Sadrist offices.

Al-Araji added that under the current electoral system, people were elected to the national parliament merely because their names were put on "closed lists" by the various coalitions, referring to the "proportional representation" system in which people vote for a coalition and not directly for individuals. He said the Sadrists are waiting for the occupation to end, so that there can be new elections that would clearly indicate the will of the people, on questions as important as the political shape of the country.

To explain the situation in the South, he notes that the first step in any application for creation of a specific federal region would be a vote of the provincial council. Thus it is in the interest of proponents of federalism to discredit the Sadrists, in order to reduce their chances in provincial-government elections. And he said it is for this reason that stories circulate attributing the recent wave of riots, killings and chaos to the Sadrists.

Next the journalist quotes Omar Wajie, a member of parliament for the Islamic Party, part of the Accord Front (Sunni), who essentially agrees that there is an important connection between the federalism vote and the recent escalation in violence. Wajie said the Sadrists are under tremendous pressure in the South, because of their stance against federalism, and also because of other positions of theirs, and "we" (meaning the Accord Front) agree with a lot of what they say, including their call for a fixed timetable for withdrawal (of the US troops) and other points.

Wajie added that this political connection is also something that has to be understood as background for the recent escalation of violence in Baghdad too. His point is that the heated-up rivalry has spilled over into Baghdad, referring to what he calls the creation of "artificial crises, where certain political forces find it in their interests to strike out at this or that other group in order to advance their own interests."

The journalist concludes with a dissent from Fadhila party member Karim al-Yaaqubi, who said there isn't any real connection between the federalism vote and the spike in violence. He said the Sadrists have a very large presence in the South, and there isn't any possibility they could he hindered from getting appropriate representation in the provincial councils. He said what has been happening in the South is owing to internal causes in the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist party.

Al-Yaaqubi added that the next real issue in the South will be creation of a new electoral system (for the provincial councils), and here he agreed that the old system, with its "proportional representation" system for putting candidates on closed lists had a lot of drawbacks.


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