Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another broken promise






Seven days from now, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  NINA notes that today US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft declared that elections would be taking place April 30th.   Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) examines the candidates who aren't running because they were disqualified:

Firstly there are lists of those excluded, around 400 names, which appeared in four separate batches released by the de-Baathification committee in early February . Second, there is a list of those excluded with reference to criminal charges (the first three batches along with the criminal  charges list is here; the separate fourth list is here). Thirdly, there is a list of those who were reinstated from the first two batches of de-Baathification subsequent to the appeals process (in some sources this has erroneously been described as a fifth exclusion batch). Importantly, the lists of those subject to de-Baathification give candidate names only, not list affiliation. It is therefore very difficult to pin down their party affiliation, especially so since many of them are not very prominent figures. Advanced name searches on them on Google in Arabic will rarely return any hits at all, even if a liberal number of name combinations is attempted. However, there remains a key to establishing some links between individual candidates and lists for at least a part of the material. This relates to the 52 reinstated candidates, who appear in the final list of election candidates and can therefore be identified by party affiliation.  Also, although no list of those reinstated in cases not relating to de-Baathification has been published, for the smaller number of reinstated candidates who were initially excluded with reference to the “good reputation” requirement it is possible to search through the final candidate list with the names of everyone who had been reported as excluded. It is noteworthy though, that in both categories – de-Baathification and “good reputation” – a large number of reinstated candidates appear to have opted to remain off the list, despite having regained the right to stand as candidates. One possible explanation, especially for candidate far down on the list, is that their lists may have deemed them to be more of a burden than an asset following the suspicions unleashed by their initial disqualifications.

As has been the case with every provincial election and every parliamentary election since the illegal war allegedly 'liberated' Iraq, campaign season means politicians get targeted.  Today? Alsumaria reports four homes were blown up in Sulaiman Bek, including one belonging to a candidate with Ayad Allawi's coaltion.   All Iraq News notes an attack on "some cars carrying leaflets [. . .] for Deputy Premier, Salih al-Mutleq" in Tikrit.

While violence has become an expected occurrence at election time, this year's elections will see a new development.  This election, Iraq is debuting electronic voter cards and not the ration cards that they used in past elections.  Monday Duraid Salman and Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) reported that the Independent High Electoral Commission notes that 85% of the new electronic cards that will be required for voting have been distributed.  The elections are next Wednesday and they still haven't distributed all the cards?  You can't vote without the card this go-round.

US Ambassador Beecroft met today with Sarbast Rashid Mustafa who chairs the Independent High Electoral Commission.  The US Embassy in Baghdad released the following:

Ambassador Beecroft Praises IHEC’s Efforts in Preparation for National Elections

April 23, 2014
U.S. Ambassador Stephen Beecroft and U.S. Embassy staff met on Tuesday April 22 with Mr. Sarbast Rashid Mustafa, the Chairman of the Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) and Mr. Muqdad Alsharify, the Chief Electoral Officer of IHEC.
Chairman Mustafa and CEO Alsharify outlined for the Ambassador the extensive plan that IHEC has in place for the national election on April 30.  The Ambassador emphasized his appreciation for the professionalism and thoroughness of IHEC's work under often very difficult circumstances and offered his condolences for IHEC employees who have been killed or injured as a result of this essential work.
The Ambassador expressed the expectation of the United States that the electoral process would reflect the will of the Iraqi people and that the Government of Iraq would take every measure to ensure that Iraqi citizens would be able to exercise their right to vote in a secure and fair environment.  He relayed that he is confident that IHEC would succeed in its mission of achieving a result that would be credible and represent the democratic decision of the Iraqi people.
The United States has consistently emphasized with Iraqi officials from across the political spectrum of the importance for the election to take place on time and has fully supported the independence of IHEC as defined in the Iraqi constitution. 

Chairman Mustafa extended his appreciation for the technical support provided by the U.S. Government for conducting transparent and credible elections in Iraq.

On the topic of Stephen Beecroft, Laura Rozen (Backchannel) reports the word is Beecroft will be nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt shortly.

That would be a deeply stupid move.  So it's probably going to happen.  If it does, we'll go into how stupid it is.  Until then, we'll just note the rumor.

Monday,  Duraid Salman (Alsumaria) reported on allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards so that they can be used for voter fraud.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) notes some of the problems with the electronic cards:

Apathetic Iraqis and problems with the voter rolls offer loopholes for political parties to exploit the new cards. Shafaq News for example interviewed a member of the Election Commission in Kirkuk who said that voting cards were going for as much as $500 a piece. The article claimed that people who were not going to vote were willing to sell their cards. With voting participation at 50% out of approximately 20 million registered voters that provides a huge pool of people to purchase cards from. In another example, Niqash ran an article in April that included a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who said that parties in the northern region were buying up voting cards as well. Another area of potential abuse is the fact that Iraq does not have up to date voter information. There has not been a census for decades because of the political differences between the ruling parties. Instead the Election Commission relies upon information provided by the Ministry of Trade and the food ration system that it operates. There are plenty of reports about the problems this presents. The IHEC for instance, announced in March that it had withdrawn 32,000 voting cards that it found were for the deceased or duplicate names. There are likely several thousand more of these types of wrongly issued cards still out there, because of the flawed nature of the voting rolls. Ironically the Election Commission went with these cards to try to cut down on fraud and cheating. In October 2013 it signed a $130 million 5-year deal with a Spanish company to create the voting cards. They have to be produced with one other piece of identification for anyone to vote. If parties are dishing up hundreds of dollars however to buy them they will have the money to forge other ID’s as well. These are obviously huge problems which the IHEC is aware of, but has limited time and money to try to fix especially since the balloting is only days away. 

Barbara Slavin can be a real idiot.  If her recent ridiculous piece hadn't been at the Voice of America, I would have linked to it.  I wouldn't have called her the names that many Americans would have -- I would have just called her stupid and grossly insensitive (her piece was 'get over it, America, Iran can pick whomever they want for an ambassador).  She's a stupid woman and a deeply troubled one whose personal demons effect her work.  At Al-Monitor, she writes an embarrassing and vapid piece following her soft-ball interview with Iraq's Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily.  We'll note this from the article:

After the 2010 elections, it took Iraqis nine months to form a new government and this could happen again, with Maliki serving in an acting capacity, said the ambassador, who comes from Maliki's Dawa Party. “The key challenge is that most of the political blocs don’t have clear red lines, which creates confusion and misreading of each other,” he said. “You may have prolonged government formation after. Historically it wasn’t quick. But the concept of time is not as crucial for us as in the Western concept.”
Among the tough decisions on hold until after elections: agreement on how much of their oil Kurds can export through Turkey and how much revenue they will get from the central government. Faily said the Kurds are not the only ones who are looking for more resources from Iraq’s oil wealth. “We get more calls from the governor of Basra than from the KRG on this issue,” he said.
At the same time, Faily said that oil remains the “gel” for society and could keep Iraq from fragmenting into three or more pieces. “There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous,” he said.

Slavin's a disaster as a reporter.  She can take dictation, that's about all she can do. That and normalize the notion that months is acceptable for forming a government.  No, it's not.  The process is supposed to take mere weeks for a prime minister-designate to be named and then he or she has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

It is a sign of failure of the democratic process that the government is unable to do their damn job.  This actually happened in 2006 as well.

That's a detail a reporter would know, Babs.  Parliamentary elections took place in December 2005.  Nouri is named prime minister-designate in April of 2006 and becomes prime minister at the end of May 2006.

She also doesn't question Faily's claim that, "There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous" when the reality is that vast numbers of Iraqis live in poverty.

At The Hill, the European Parliament's Delegations for Relations with Iraq's President Struan Stevenson explains:

The election is being held while he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and all military and security forces are under his personal command without any legal check. For more than four years he has directly controlled the ministries of Interior, Defence, Security and Communications, in total breach of the Erbil Agreement; he has filled all key posts with his own men, and through influencing the judiciary has trampled on its independence and brought Iraqi judges under direct political control. In a similarly contemptuous and illegal move he has repeatedly refused requests to appear before the elected parliament and provide explanations for his authoritarian behaviour.
Last year, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution whereby none of the three key posts of prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, could be occupied by any one person for more than two consecutive 4-year terms. However, through influencing the judicial system, he declared this law unconstitutional, despite the fact that the constitution does not bestow such authority on the judicial system. 

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