Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Correction re the Provincial-elections debate

In an earlier post on the debate over the provincial-elections law, through ignorance I left out an important point. In reference to the question of "open lists" versus "closed lists", I took at face value the remarks of the head of the electoral commission, one Faraj al-Hadayri, who said open lists would be too difficult to manage. What I left out has to do with (1) "who is this guy" and (2) "why did he say that." Today Reidar Visser has posted a little essay on current policy, and included in that he writes:
Today, the latest phase in the forced ethno-federalisation of Iraq is being played out as the Kurdish–ISCI ruling minority tries to fashion a provincial elections law that can suit its strategy of minimising popular impact on the elections results. Open lists that would give voters the opportunity of overruling party elites in their choice of candidates have been discussed in Iraq recently, but the KDP-appointed president of the “independent” electoral commission, Faraj al-Haydari, has already deemed this “impracticable”. Similarly, the idea of smaller electoral districts is being dismissed because of Kurdish concerns over Kirkuk. This all echoes the December 2005 parliamentary elections, in which no less than one third of ISCI’s members of parliament were “elected” not on the basis of the popular vote but rather were promoted as a result of party manipulations of the list after the ballots had been cast. But then again it is only two months since the Kurds and ISCI fought tooth and nail to avoid any timeline for elections; it would be naïve to expect a sudden change of priorities just because the provincial powers law has been adopted by parliament.
In other words, Faraj al-Haydari is the nominee of one of the Kurdish-separatist parties, and his views are in line with the whole Kurd-SupremeCouncil strategy of minimizing popular influence in the provincial elections (if and when they get to be held at all).

The rest of Visser's essay has to do with calls at the current Stockholm conference this week by the GZ government and the US for unconditional support for the Maliki administration via debt-relief, opening of embassies, and so on. The effect of this would be merely to strengthen the Maliki administration in its current sectarian policies. Visser says "the picture of US policy-making in this area is depressing. Despite a declared intention of pursuing a unifying policy, through its peculiar choice of Iraqi allies, the US is in fact contributing to fragmentation...." And he adds: "The current machinations by the [Maliki's] government to influence this autumn's provincial elections could serve as a forewarning of what kind of methods it may choose to employ in the federalisation process later on."

Now that I know who Faraj al-Haydari is, I'll be able to follow that story a little better.


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