Elections are taking part on either side of Jordan these days. Hamas is making significant gains to the west and the Shiites are powering up in the east. In more than one way.
It was only a while ago the US administration was calling every opposition to its presence in Iraq as “the anti-Iraqi insurgency” while there has obviously always been a big difference between the pro-Iraqis who have been resisting American occupation and of course Al-Queda which is carrying out its own agenda that consists mostly of killing Iraqi civilians and beheading journalists. This was an effort on America’s part to make them out to be serving the same goals and much of the world bought into this mostly because of the media but also because of their lack of knowledge of Islam, Iraq, and history.
Recently however we see a change in American language as reported by the Asia Times:
While US President George W Bush continued to claim a strategy for “victory” in Iraq in recent speeches, his administration has quietly renounced the goal of defeating the non-al-Qaeda, Sunni-armed organizations there.
The administration is evidently preparing for serious negotiations with the Sunni insurgents, whom it has started referring to as “nationalists”, emphasizing their opposition to al-Qaeda’s objectives.
The new policy has thus far gone unnoticed in the media, partly because it has only been articulated by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the spokesman for the US command in Baghdad.
…Until recently, the administration treated the indigenous Sunni insurgents as the main enemy in Iraq, measuring progress primarily in terms of the numbers of insurgents killed and captured, and areas “cleared” of insurgent presence. Administration officials portrayed Sunni insurgents as allies of al-Qaeda and referred to them as “anti-Iraqi forces”. [more]
It is rather an interesting article which goes on to detail the specific events which has given way to this change in language.
So now we have AlQueda and Sunni Nationalists. Speaking of the latter…
A Shi’ite militia has drawn up plans to kill prominent Sunni leaders and eliminate a nascent Sunni political party, according to a document obtained by Asia Times Online from a person close to the Iraqi resistance.
The document, which has not been officially acknowledged, carries the letterhead of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the political party of which the Badr Organization is the armed wing. The SCIRI is headed by Shi’ite cleric Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, a leading contender to become Iraq’s next premier. Recently, a secret prison allegedly run by elements in the Iraqi Interior Ministry loyal to the SCIRI was discovered.
You can click here to read the rest of the article which includes a translation of the letter.
For those out of the loop, the elections which took place in Iraq this week were to choose a permenant government that would rule for the next 4 years based on the majority seat holders in the 275 seat parliament. This by default sets it apart from all the other times this year Iraqis have had to go color their thumbs purple.
Your main political contestants are:
Iraqi Accordance Front (Sunni) Led by Adnan al-Dulaymi and Tariq al-Hashimi
Iraqi National List (ShiÃ¢??ite & Sunni) Led by Iyad Allawi
United Iraqi Alliance (ShiÃ¢??ite) Led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim
Kurdistan Coalition List (Kurdish) Led by by MasÃ¢??ud Barzani
National Congress Coalition (ShiÃ¢??ite & Sunni) Led by Ahmad Chalabi
Now while the voter turnout has been high in Iraq in general there are talks of a coalition forming between the IAF and secular Shiites and Kurds, with the aim of defusing Shiite power in the new government. Dulaimi of the IAF seems to be the key player in bringing in Sunni participation. He has stated recently that Shiite religious parties will be unable to form a government though this is by no means a fact as of yet. In fact the Shiites (who are 60% of the country) are expected to form the first government.
It is estimated that 70% of eligable Iraqi voters have voted (10 or 11 million). However we wont see results until early January.
On December 13th however Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots. The Iranian truck driver claimed that at least 3 other trucks have already crossed the border. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who the Iranians are supporting in this election.
The Iraqi elections have left their mark in many corners of the world, specifically in the form of Election Posters which have stretched out from Iraq, to Jordan to even here in Toronto. 12 polling stations were hosted in public schools in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid, 10 of which were in Amman alone. It’s strange however that of the 15 host countries, Jordan is one of 5 not to have an official website.
I feel that voting in Jordan this time is a little different in the post-Amman attacks of last month. These votes have a symbolic nature. First it does show both political and social unity of Jordanian support of Iraqi nation building and second this unity has become a front to terrorism in Iraq which has now become a threat to both Iraq and Jordan. The Jordanian government supplied security to gaurd the stations which have always been considered major terrorist targets. According to Al Ghad newspaper the number of eligable voters in Iraq (born in Iraq, over 18 with an Iraqi passport) ranges from 400,000 to 700,000. I am questioning these numbers but I will take them with a grain of salt. It is however interesting to place these eligable voters in the context of those who did vote.
It begs the question whether the recent attacks in Amman, barely a month ago, have caused some Iraqis to stay away from the polls fearing they might become targets? We should also consider that many Iraqis in Jordan who have come since 2003 are Saddam loyalists, although even the Sunni Arabs which constitute the Iraqi resistance came out to vote in large numbers.
While official numbers have not been released, Jordan saw one of the highest voter turnouts for Iraqi expat voters, compared to the voting which took place almost a year ago in January. The estimate is about 31,000 Iraqis voted in Amman from a total of the 320,000 who voted in 15 countries world wide. This can be compared to the 14,000 that voted in Amman in January 2005.
UPDATE: 32,000 voted in Jordan, representing 10%. However 34 Iraqis who attempted to vote more than once after removing the ink from their fingers were arrested. Some canidates also tried to buy votes for $50
The difference between the January elections and this one is best explained by Iraqis in Jordan:
Khalil Samerai, 45, who shunned the January elections, said he voted this time because he did not want one group to dominate the Iraqi political scene.
Ã¢??Many Iraqis ignored the January elections because they did not believe change would occur. We hope our participation will help Iraqi unity,Ã¢?Â he said.
as well as…
Soujoud Abdullah, 35, a mother of three, said the absence of Sunnis in January elections cast doubt on the winners’ credentials.
Ã¢??The whole Iraqi nation must vote. We do our duty as Iraqis and vote while politicians must do their duty by driving Americans out of the country.Ã¢?Â
It is however the building process which still worries me, specifically in the face of American occupation and AlQueda’s growing presence. I am hoping however these votes will count for something in the long run despite these major obstacles. There are 2 important commentaries on this issue in The Daily Star, by Rami Khouri and Christopher Preble and Justin Logan. They are worth a read.
While Jordan has played a key role in supporting free elections, democracy and the rebuilding of Iraq there are still questions of balance that need to be addressed. Note that one of Jordan’s most wanted men, Ahmad Chalabi, is on the Iraqi ballot.
Meanwhile, Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj has an interesting take on the Iraqi Elections which in my opinion echoes the thoughts of many Jordanians. However it’s accuracy is another story.