Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What they're afraid of

Faisal alRubiae, writing in the Qatari paper AlArab, explains what is behind this unprecedented wave of anti-sectarian rhetoric from Maliki, Hashemi and other big names in the "political process". He says you need to put this in the context of the provincial-council elections planned for end-January, and more importantly pay attention to an important shift in the whole tenor of popular opinion about politics.
Because opinion polls and other efforts to take the pulse of Iraqi public opinion demonstrate very clearly today the fact that there is an amazing change going on in the popular political climate: simply stated, what has become dominant is the rejection of parties that are religious and "sectarian", Shia and Sunni alike, and this has triggered concern in influential circles [in the ruling parties] who no longer doubt that the Iraqi elector will vote in the coming elections for secular parties in defiance [or at the expense] of the religious and sectarian parties.
So that is his first point, namely that there has been a sea-change in Iraqi attitudes to the sect-dominated "political process", and the big governing parties themselves have become aware of the threat.

And he says this is what explains a number of recent political dramas. For instance:
Moreover, the continuing latent struggle between the Dawa Party and the Supreme Council over the tribal "support councils" that have been formed by the government is merely one expression of the degree of panic about ascendency of the "secularists in the regions of the South", and as part of that, the fear that the Dawa Party--without the Supreme Council--could get a majority [in local councils] in the event that votes are cast in favor of the secularists and the liberals. [He seems to be saying either that a secular/liberal trend would hurt the Supreme Council more than it would hurt the Dawa, or else that it might actually help the Dawa, via the "support councils".]
The same thing is happening among the Sunni parties:
This is the same fear that has driven Sunni entities to declare the "crisis of the quota system". [These are the Sunni parties that] called themselves "representatives of the Sunni people" and agreed to the establishment of this system on a sectarian basis, in fact they insisted on its being necessary and vital, for instance when they passed the constitution in exchange for a promise that some of its clauses would be altered in a matter of months....
The Islamic Party, and the Accord Front generally, are facing not only the problems of the Shiite religious parties in the face of this resurgence of secularism, but also an additional problem: To the extent they preach the "crisis of the sectarian allocation system" and nothing is done, supposing they do poorly in the proincial elections, they risk losing what little influence they do have in the ruling setup. And they don't know what secular movements in the Sunni community could arise to take their place.

The politicians in the ruling parties realize this is no passing or secondary problem, but rather a threat to their control of regions (the author uses the expression "federaliat"--federal regions) on the part of "powers they had not paid any attention to". But while they realize the problem is a serious one for them, still their proposals are not going to go beyond what you could call a rhetorical "out-bidding" of one another, rather than any serious suggestions for radical change.


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