Iraq returning to post-election tensions?

Iraq’s Independent Higher Election Commission (IHEC) has taken much longer than expected to publish the results of the general election conducted five days ago, on Sunday. Their English-language website is here. I leave it to my esteemed friend Reidar Visser to interpret the details of what the IHEC has been releasing– e.g. here, yesterday evening. I will note only that the “latest news” posted here on the IHEC website tells us that they have (very) preliminary results only from five of Iraq’s 18 provinces– and of those, in the province in which the vote-counting was most complete, Najaf, the proportion of votes counted was still only 34.11%!
So it is still far too early to “call” the election even there. It looks as though the process of counting all the votes throughout the country will be a long one indeed.
Which need not be a problem in itself. There are plenty of countries in which vote-counting takes one or two weeks, due to to poor infrastructure of various kinds. And in this election, it’s true that the ballot sheets are enormous and complex, thus very difficult to handle in bulk and to tally.
However, the slowness of the IHEC in completing its work is bound to raise fears and tensions throughout the country, especially fears and accusations of ballot-rigging– just as happened in Afghanistan after last August’s election.
In Afghanistan, the sharp inter-party tensions that arose after the election were only finally reduced, after a number of weeks, when the main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew his challenge to the announced results. To the huge relief of the U.S. authorities in the country, that meant they, NATO, and the U.N. would not have to go through the enormous bother of organizing a run-off election. And Hamid Karzai was rapidly reinaugurated as president.
I’ve seen no reports on what inducements Abdullah was offered to withdraw, but I’m assuming there must have been some big ones, supplied by someone.
In Iraq, the post-election controversies could, but may not, become equally polarizing. There, it looks so far (but still with only very preliminary numbers) as if PM Maliki’s State of Law will emerge as the bloc with the largest number of seats, but well short of a simple majority, and even further short of the two-thirds majority required for many significant steps in governing the country. Therefore– as in Israel!– even if there is no controversy over the counting of the votes, there may still be a lengthy period of post-results coalition-forming haggling.
That was kind of what happened in Iraq in 2006. And then, of course, those post-election tensions immediately became tied up with the eruption of brutally intense sectarianism that followed the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
This time around, I am fairly strongly convinced– unlike some others in the antiwar movement here in the U.S.– that the U.S. authorities really do want to try to get the bulk of the military out of Iraq in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement of November 2008. And to do this without the whole process being a debacle that would certainly destabilize the whole region, they need some form of “legitimate enough” government to emerge and start governing in Baghdad.
Just as, for slightly different reasons, they needed some form of “legitimate enough” government to emerge in Afghanistan last summer…
In the present global-political context, in which the U.S. has tied itself and much of the U.N. bureaucracy to the idea that western-style elections are an essential component (or source) of political legitimacy, having a “legitimate enough” government in a country under direct U.S. sway means that that government must emerge from elections that are also judged to be “legitimate enough”.
I earlier explored a few of the challenges involved in plucking “legitimacy” out of a severely challenged election with regard to the Afghan elections of 2004, here, and 2009, here.
It is not clear whether– or how– this may happen in Iraq. We need to stay attuned to the fall-out that can be expected throughout the whole region if the post-election political challenges there cannot be speedily and satisfactorily resolved.

13 thoughts on “Iraq returning to post-election tensions?”

  1. The Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t say that the US must “get the bulk of the military out of Iraq”, it states: “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”
    If this happens it would be a miracle like unto the virgin birth.

  2. The Withdrawal Agreement??

    March 7th has passed with no referendum on the security agreement (SOFA) concluded between the U.S. and Iraq. Iraqis still do not know the Government’s or Elections Commission’s motives for disregarding a law passed by a majority in Parliament, within a supposedly parliamentary political system. None of the politicians even bothered to provide any justification for it.
    Late in 2008, the al-Maliki government promised to hold a referendum on the security agreement within six months. However, for “logistical” reasons, it regretted continuing to be unable to hold it during provincial council elections in January 2009. In mid-2009, the door was open for the referendum to be held during the Kurdistan parliamentary elections in the middle of the same year.

  3. I doubt that Iraq should be compared so directly with Afghanistan. There are so many different factors.
    Agreed that a prolonged counting period risks fraud. But it was pretty long in the previous elections, and no great accusations of rigging were made.
    I would it’s more useful to compare with previous elections in Iraq rather than Afghanistan.

  4. Actually the election results don’t seem to be going too badly.
    Maliki leads poll count in Baghdad.
    I have no idea whether his lead is rigged. But I prefer Maliki, as more likely to lead to a successful future for Iraq (I’m sure Salah won’t agree).
    But then we should perhaps be discussing which of the candidates is likely to be best for the future of Iraq.

  5. Agreed that a prolonged counting period risks fraud. But it was pretty long in the previous elections, and no great accusations of rigging were made.
    Alexno, in the last election the length of giving the results part of it was the high of sectarian cleansing also remember there was three days drama in southern Iraq were lost voting boxes then showed after three days!!.
    Now days although “rigging” not obvious but the voting outside Iraq turned to be more problematic due to the required documents by IHEC which most Iraqi fled the country in the past without them even those who born outside Iraq not really looked to gain those documents.
    One question here posing, in 2005 election there was Iraqi Jews votes and how they vote for the new Iraq , Iraqis who voted
    JANUARY 2005 election
    have met Bush, today election there is no single word about them??

  6. Press release by Struan Stevenson, President of Delegation for relations with Iraq at the European Parliament, March 13, 2010

    “The steady flow of allegations has now become a flood. In the past 36 hours I have received first-hand accounts of countless blank ballots being filled in primarily to benefit the State of Law coalition (Nouri Al-Maliki) list in Sadr City in Baghdad, particularly in the predominantly Sunni neighbourhoods of Al-Adhamia, Zeyoona, Al-Fadhl, Share’a Felestin and Al-Selekh. In many cases thousands of ballot papers were marked with a second tick to render them invalid. One report stated that many thousands of ballot papers marked in favour of Iraqiya list (Ayad Allawi) had been discovered on a Baghdad rubbish dump. Also scores of military personnel were prevented from voting because their names did not appear on any register.

  7. The election is clearly rigged. Of that there is no doubt. The banning of candidates on the basis that they were ‘baathists’ is not only undemocratic but indicative of the manner in which both campaigning and voting has been heavily skewed, in favour of puppets.
    And then there is the counting process which is obviously open to fraud.
    Finally there are the facts of, on the one hand, a military occupation supporting a military regime, and, on the other hand, a society living in a state of abject economic dependence – clientage.
    But let this matter be put into perspective: last year we observed, from a distance, Iran’s Presidential elections. We did so in a hypercritical (not to say highly hypocritical) manner. The ‘west’ went to great lengths not only to protest against what it suggested were irregularities in the electoral process, but devoted enormous amounts of money and governmental pressure to punishing the winners of the election. Bloggers went wild as they pored over tea leaves and sniffed (in the interests of science) at entrails.
    The result has been that, without much in the way of real evidence, the conventional wisdom has been established that Ahmedinejad’s mandate is flawed. That subversion and sanctions are justifiable.
    As to Iraq? Well, this is the United States’s election. It is a demonstration of what the US supports in the way of democracy. And, like the recent ‘election’ in Honduras it is crooked to the eye. And noisome to boot.

  8. Dear Salah
    I agree with you that it is probable that al-Maliki is rigging the election.
    The more important question is which leader will serve Iraq better in the future: Iyad Allawi, al-Maliki, or Ammar al-Hakim?
    Allawi is a friend of the Sunnis today, will he be tomorrow? He is known as an agent of the Americans.
    Al-Maliki has pursued a nationalist policy. It was he who negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement with the US. Since then he has softened his policy. Either that is because of US threats, or because the election was coming up.
    I would say, after the elections, if he wins, he will be more nationalist again.
    The doubt that I have about al-Maliki is that he is too sectarian. Will he allow the Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Syria to return and live their lives normally?
    As for Ammar al-Hakim, who knows?
    From my point of view, firstly the US must depart. Iraq has no future with an occupation army in place.
    Secondly the Kurdish problem has to be coped with. I have no problem with Kurdistan being independent, but they should not have an influence in Baghdad. Independence or not, they should decide. The present conflicts in the muhafaza (province) of Nineveh are a problem, but American intervention is not a solution.
    Al-Maliki seems to me the best to resolve these problems, though not perfect, as the future of the Sunni community does not look ideal, and more will have to be done on that front.
    I’d be interested to hear other points of view.

  9. Dear Alexno,
    I do agree with some of your views but what trebles me is when people talking about Maliki they giving him to much confidence they forget that he is like other US poppet and he is doing what he have to do.
    I don’t know from were his nationalism born from, looking back for the chain of corruptions with some support by him of covering up those of his top officials in his cabinet, gives no excuse that he is doing this for the nation.
    may view might not loved one by many, he is the best of the worse in Iraq today.
    As for Kurdish problem, I think they encouraged for long time back to 1991 by US, Brits, France to be independent from Iraq.

  10. Some from those US heroes
    Timothy W. Dorsey!!

    “Certainly some of the skills I learned at the Law School, and in my law firm [the Virginia Beach office of Williams Mullen] were used when interrogating Iraqi prisoners—the questioning skills and breaking down their answers into small parts. Essentially it’s an advanced form of deposition.”
    Dorsey is quick to note that “we had none of those shenanigans” that occurred in interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “Everything we did was in full accord with the Geneva Convention.”
    Today, Dorsey is still toggling between the civilian and military worlds. He is vice president and general counsel for USA Discounters Ltd., a Virginia Beach-based retailer of consumer goods, and he serves as commander of the Navy Intelligence Reserve Region in Washington, D.C., overseeing more than 800 intelligence professionals, preparing them for overseas deployment.

    ““Everything we did was in full accord with the Geneva Convention.”” What a joke by this jerk

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