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Baghdadee بغدادي

Iraqi polls bring secular success

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Below is very interesting article by the Guardian.. Talking about a democratic exercise by Iraqis in Nasria.. I have the following comments though:

1- How many of us had already heard about such thing?

2- Nasyria is the hart of rural tribunal Shia province.

3-The political religious influence should at it most in this province..


Please have a look and try to visualize the new librated Iraq, the state of freedom ..

Shouldn't this prove the wisdom of Alsystani, asking the international community and the coalition to consider the election as the only legitimate mechanism




Iraqi polls bring secular success

Jonathan Steele in Nassiriya

Monday April 5, 2004

The Guardian


Herded into lines by inexperienced police officers, hundreds of would-be Iraqi voters pushed into a sparsely equipped school at the weekend to cast their ballots for the local council of Tar.


Deep in the marshlands of the Euphrates, the town of 15,000 people was the first to rise against Saddam Hussein in the abortive intifada of 1991. Now it was holding the first genuine election in its history.


The poll was the latest in a series which this overwhelmingly Shia province has held in the past six weeks, and the results have been surprising. Seventeen towns have voted, and in almost every case secular independents and representatives of non-religious parties did better than the Islamists.


This week sees the biggest event in the Shia calendar, the annual pilgrimage to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf, and thousands of people were making the 10-day walk along the main road west through Nassiriya and its surrounding province of Dhi Qar. But in the march to the polling booths the secular democrats were showing the greater strength.


"This is a free election," said Jawad Khadum, a teacher in Tar. "We want more of them, for example in our teachers' union and for the mayor."


Like many professionals, he was worried by the way some religious parties had been throwing their weight around, trying to close shops which sell alcohol and pressing every woman to wear a veil. He saw the vote as a chance to stop this, he said.


The results will have delighted him. Neither of the two Islamist candidates was among the 10 elected. A woman teacher got in, the first female councillor in the province. Other winners included an agricultural engineer and three businessmen.


In Shatra, a town of 250,000, the Communist party won four seats and independents seven. Partly because of their popularity for stopping the looting which followed the overthrow of the old regime, the Islamists had a majority in the former council which was appointed last summer. After the election they were cut back to four seats out of 15.


"It was not a surprise," said Jalil Abed Jafar, a doctor, in the Communist party's upstairs offices along the waterfront. Shatra is where the party was founded 70 years ago, and the offices were still full of posters celebrating that event, along with photographs of dozens of members executed by the former regime.


No other province has held as many elections as Dhi Qar.


They have been organised largely by Tobin Bradley, an Arabic-speaking US state department official attached to the occupation authority in Nassiriya. Although the American government insisted that national elections could not be held in Iraq before the transfer of sovereignty on June 30, in Dhi Qar they went ahead using the ration card system - a method which could have been used nationally, according to many Iraqis.


The system of cheap basic rations still operates, and every Iraqi family received new cards this year, listing address and family size. In the Dhi Qar elections the card allowed a husband and wife to vote if they also brought their identity documents. The ration card was stamped in red or blue for each gender, making it possible for a wife to come earlier or later than her husband.


"It's not universal suffrage," said Mr Bradley, as he watched local judges check voters' identities inside the school entrance in Tar. "The polling places are only in the town centre. Some families are larger than others and they all get two votes. But it's free and fair to a certain degree."


Direct elections are not being held for the provincial council, but Mr Bradley has organised partial contests. A certain number of seats is set aside for various groups, which then elect people to fill them.


The province has 22 Islamic parties, which will get six seats. The 15 secular parties get four. Seats are reserved for women, professional associations and trade unions. Seven seats are for 54 tribal leaders. The "refreshed council", as it is called, is claimed to be more democratic than the one appointed by the occupation authorities.


"We chose people not very transparently before," Mr Bradley said. "This time we said, 'you provide the names'."


The change cannot come soon enough, in the view of Sheikh Sabri Hamid al-Rumidh, Dhi Qar's governor, who has been battling to control the religious parties, particularly the half-dozen which have militias.


Like the voters in the province's unprecedented elections, Mr Rumidh hopes the tide which flowed in favour of the religious parties in 2003 has begun to turn

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Guest Tom Grey

Great news! No big surprise, an American who speaks the language is one of the key supporters/ promoters. Why weren't there more Arabic language courses encouraged, or required, under Clinton (& Bush)?


More elections, more councilors, more practice in voting -- and more practice in seeing how the guy you voted for is doing less than you think he should!


Welcome to democracy, the worst form of gov't, except for all the others.

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