Monday, February 02, 2009

Election results: No to existing councils; Yes to what?

Three pan-Arab, non-regime newspapers (AlArab, Kuwait; AlQuds alArabi, London; and AlAkhbar, Lebanon) take the following view of the initial Iraqi election-reports:

(1) Their leading point is that apparently none of the local councils was returned in its existing party-configuration, and in particular it appears likely that the Supreme Council lost control of six of the seven provincial councils it had held in the South and Center. The papers cite two reasons: One the rejection by voters of the poor or nil performance by the local councils in matters of local concern, such as local services; and the second, more generally, a turning away from the religious parties that had brought about that condition.

(2) Maliki's "Nation of laws" coalition took most of the gains in those South and Central provinces. This is attributed to Maliki's personal popularity in Basra and elsewhere for pacifying the region. These papers don't say anything about Sadrist/Maliki relations, but agree that the Sadrists as a group didn't do well even in their strongholds around Amara province.

They say it appears the Islamic Party of Iraq suffered the same fate in Anbar and elsewhere as the Supreme Council suffered in the South-Center: Rejection for poor performance and rejection as a religious party. Iyad Allawi is mentioned along with the new tribal groups as being a beneficiary of this.

The sum and substance of these initial reports is that the elections constituted a rejection of the existing provincial councils. But the actual nature of the Maliki "Nation of Laws" list, its program if any, and its relation to the Sadrists, isn't discussed yet. Ditto the groups that reaped the benefits of the rejection of the Islamic Party in the West.

For Al-Akhbar, the main result is confirmation of "Maliki the strong-man" in the context of a political process set up and run by the occupation--or as the journalist puts it: "The Iraqi people turned [in the sense of prayers] in the direction of the qibla of Western government declarations, as the latter fell all over themselves in praise of this "great step in advance" in the results of the provincial council elections, by way of which Nuri al-Maliki heads for consecration as "the strong man".


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