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Jaafari Wins on Basis of Dawa, Sadrist Vote: Stability of UIA In Question
by Juan Cole (reposted)
Monday Feb 13th, 2006 7:32 AM
...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Jaafari Wins on Basis of Dawa, Sadrist Vote
Some Question Stability of United Iraqi Alliance in Aftermath


Al-Zaman/AFP reports that the internal vote of the fundamentalist United Iraqi Alliance that elected Ibrahim Jaafari their candidate for prime minister in the next government was conducted by secret ballot. It appears that the two MPs who ran on the Message list, who have said they will vote with the UIA, were allowed to take part in this vote, so there could have been 130 votes cast. But only 129 of the 130 MPs voted. The absent MP was Hasan al-Rubay`i from the Sadr Movement, who arrived late for the vote. Since the Sadrists voted for Jaafari, he probably would have had 65 to his rival Adil Abdul Mahdi's 63 votes if al-Rubay`i had been punctual. Two other MPs put blank pieces of paper into the ballot box.

Al-Zaman says that some Iraqi observers in London believe that Jaafari is more likely to form a government with the fundamentalist Sunni Iraqi Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi than with the Kurdistan Alliance.

(The UIA can count on 132 votes at present. The Sunni relgious parties have 44. If they could get the Kurdish Islamists to vote with them, they'd have another 5. That would give them 181, and they only need 184 for a two-thirds majority. They could surely pick up 3 independents for this purpose. This scenario, however, would require that the Sunni fundamentalists desert their ex-Baathist and neo-Baathist allies, since Salih Mutlak's National Dialogue Council and Iyad Allawi of the National Iraqi List are both unacceptable to the Sadr Movement within the United Iraqi Alliance.)

Nadim al-Jabiri of the Virtue (Fadhila) Party (fundamentalist Shiite, popular in the southern port city of Basra), and the independent Hussein Shahristani both withdrew their candidacies before the vote.

Informed sources in Bagdad told al-Zaman that al-Jabiri and Shahristani favored Abdul Mahdi and that they could have instructed their supporters to vote for him when they withdrew their names. Instead, both released their supporter to vote for whoever they thought most appropriate to the post of prime minister.

Between them, the two branches of the Dawa Party and the Sadr Movement have 60 seats in parliament (this counts Fadhilah/Virtue, the independents who lean toward one or the other and the two Risaliyun MPs), and it is thought that all but one of them went to Jaafari. He is said to have actively courted the independents and members of the Fadhilah or Virtue Party. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Badr Organization (its paramilitary), along with their close sympathizers also have 60 seats, and most of them voted for Abdul Mahdi. (Presumably, though, the two blank ballots came from independents that al-Zaman is counting as SCIRI supporters, which made the difference).

The observers who talked to al-Zaman thought that the divisive vote suggested that the United Iraqi Alliance could well split sometime in the next 4 years, which in turn could bring down the Jaafari government.

Many MPs feel that Jaafari will be better able to keep a balance between the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Sadr Movement, which have had conflicts in the past.

A member of the Kurdistan Alliance said that it would insist that Jaafari pledge to support article 58 of the constitution, which provides for a referendum in Kirkuk on whether it wishes to accede to the Kurdistan confederacy. He said that the Kurds will also insist that the negative aspects of the last Jaafari government not be repeated. (The Kurds thought that Jaafari tended to run the executive in a high-handed manner despite his supposed coalition with the Kurds, whom he apparently seldom consulted on policy.)

Although the Kurds are now saying that they want Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi National List to be part of the national unity government, the Sadr Movement is demanding that Allawi be excluded. My guess is that there are things the Kurds want from Muqtada more than they want Allawi (especially Kirkuk), and that they will pretty quickly bargain Allawi away. In the last parliament, what determined whether you got a cabinet post was how well you did in the election, and a similar dynamic is likely to play out again this year.

posted by Juan @ 2/13/2006 06:26:00 AM   

§Jaafari Prime Minister 2006-2010 But is not Allowed on US Television
by Juan Cole (reposted) Monday Feb 13th, 2006 7:37 AM

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jaafari Prime Minister 2006-2010
But is not Allowed on US Television


Breaking news: The United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite fundamentalist parties, has chosen Ibrahim Jaafari to be prime minister of Iraq for the next four years. The UIA had hoped to avoid going to an up and down vote, but was forced into one on Sunday when it was unable to decide by consensus. Jaafari of the Dawa Party got 64 votes, while his rival, Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, received 63.

jaafarisistani.jpg"
Jaafari

The UIA has 128 seats in parliament, so presumably someone abstained or was absent, otherwise it would have been a tie or Jaafari would have won by a two-vote margin. Jaafari won in large part because of the backing of Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, which is larger than that of the Dawa Party's two factions. The narrowness of Jaafari's victory weakens him, his coalition, and the new Iraqi government.

muqtada_alsadr--133x198.jpg"
Muqtada al-Sadr


I scanned the US cable news channels and only CNN Headline News was making much of this development, and then only briefly. It raises the question for me of whether US television news has unspoken racist undertones. There are exceptions. Wolf Blitzer's Sunday show on CNN, actually allows real live Middle Easterners to speak to the US public. Fine reporters such as Nic Roberts at CNN will set up brief clips of a Jaafari press conference or a short Q & A on a particular issue with an Iraqi official. But on the hour-long t.v. news magazines, or even just with the anchors during the day, we never see so much as an extended interview with Ibrahim Jaafari. Isn't that weird? The real UK BBC will do an hour-long interview with an Iraqi cabinet minister like Ali Allawi. But our television news almost never talks to anyone among important Iraqi politicians, with the possible exception of the Kurdish politician Jalal Talabani, the mostly ceremonial president of Iraq. Aren't the Iraqi politicians who have come to power in the celebrated purple-thumb Iraqi elections worth talking to? Don't Americans care what they think? Or are they just a blank set of canvases on which Kansas gets to paint its own preconceptions and prejudices (a process made all the easier if real Iraqis are not allowed to speak on camera to Americans)? And, with all these cable channels and satellite capabilities, why can't we see the real BBC in America? I mean, I can watch French and Italian and Egyptian and Lebanese channels. I'm not even being offered by my satellite company the possibility of the real BBC. Isn't that weird? There are so many weird things. The upshot is that if you don't have Joe Scarborough's profile, you don't get seen or heard much on US television.

In contrast, the much-maligned (in the US) Aljazeerah just had an excellent wide-ranging 45-minute discussion of Jaafari's election with several Iraqi observers of different persuasions. Can't we here expect to be at least as well served by our television news as the Arab world is by theirs?

Back to Iraq. Jaafari is disliked by the Kurdistan Alliance, with which he will have to form a coalition in order to have the president chosen. Jaafari's backers, the Sadrists have declared a "red line" in that they will not entertain a cabinet post for secular ex-Baathist Iyad Allawi, whose list fared poorly in the elections, but who is backed by the Americans and has old links to the Kurds. Aljazeera says that Jalal Talabani, a key member of the Kurdistan Alliance, is saying he draws a red line against red lines. I.e., he will not back down on the Allawi issue just because the Sadrists have taken a stand. But Jaafari owes the Sadrists, so I suspect Allawi gets bupkes.

Jaafari's election is also perhaps bad news in another way. If SCIRI had gotten the prime minister position, it might have been willing to see the Ministry of the Interior go to a technocrat or to the Dawa Party, which doesn't have as big a paramilitary. I suspect that now, SCIRI will insist on Interior (the equivalent of the US FBI). It had the post in the past, interim government, and is accused of packing it with commandos from its paramilitary, the Badr Corps, many of whom were trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Interior police commandos are accused by Sunni Arabs of acting as death squads, as well as of keeping secret torture prisons.

As Reuters notes, Jaafari is widely considered indecisive and he has not been able to make a dent in the guerrilla war.

posted by Juan @ 2/12/2006 02:44:00 PM

§Uphill Struggle for Iraqi Prime Minister Designate
by IWPR (reposted) Thursday Feb 23rd, 2006 7:36 AM
Critics say the record of the last government run by Ibrahim al-Jaafari is little recommendation for another term in office.

By Zaineb Naji in Baghdad (ICR No. 165, 22-Feb-06)
Mohammed Abdullah has one word to sum up the prospect that Ibrahim al-Jaafari could become prime minister of Iraq again -"catastrophe".

Abdullah, 39-year-old Sunni civil servant in Baghdad, ticks off his long list of complaints about Jaafari's record as head of the interim government: poor security, sectarianism, rising fuel prices, water and electricity shortages. He is disappointed that Jaafari’s name has come up again as the preferred choice of the Shia-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, UIA, which won a majority in December’s election to the first standing Iraqi parliament since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003

"Isn't there anyone else?" he sighed.

Like many Iraqis, Abdullah is pessimistic about what the future will hold under another government led by Jaafari.

As head of the Dawa Party, one of the two big Shia players within the UIA, and a politician with close ties to Iran, Jaafari still needs to convince the wider public he can offer real national leadership. In the Iraqi capital, many of the people IWPR spoke to - particularly Sunni Arabs who accuse his Shia-led administration of discriminating against their community - worry that he is incapable of pulling together a country wracked by sectarianism, poverty and war.

The prime minister designate has announced that his priorities will be security, economy and reconstruction. But many Iraqis say that as head of the transitional cabinet since April 2005, he is to blame for the problems that the new government will inherit, including widespread violence, deteriorating public services, rising employment and government corruption.

"The Iraqi people have tested Jaafari, and we’ve had nothing but speeches and empty promises," said Ahmed Adil, a 44-year-old Sunni Arab merchant from Baghdad’s Amiriyah neighbourhood. "Sectarianism, bribery, poor [public] services, jails and torture was all that he offered in his first cabinet. In his second administration, he will split Iraq, and involve the centre and south with Iran."

Jaafari’s nomination is almost certain to be endorsed by the National Assembly, since the UIA holds 130 of the 275 seats there. But he is less certain of winning the two-thirds majority approval he needs for the cabinet list he submits to the legislature, since several parties and blocs have threatened to boycott the government unless it includes opposition voices. If his cabinet does not gain parliamentary approval within the first two weeks that the National Assembly is in session, he will have to stand aside and another candidate will be asked to form a government.

The UIA’s narrow endorsement of Jaafari - he won the slate's re-nomination by just one vote over Iraqi vice-president Adel Abd al-Mahdi - indicated that his political support may be slipping among some of his allies.

A source close to Jaafari's current cabinet, who asked to remain anonymous, said that what Iraq needs is a political figure whom all ethnic and religious constituencies can sign up to. "I don't think the UIA's candidate is able to achieve that, and he can't force other slates to vote for him," said the source.

Some leading politicians have complained that the interim cabinet, which included Kurdish leaders, was nevertheless bent on carrying out a UIA agenda favourable to Shias. An incoming government that behaved in the same way would be a problem, they say.

Kurdish leaders say that they were unable to achieve progress on matters specific to them, such as resolving the position in areas like Kirkuk, where substantial numbers of Kurds deported by Saddam are seeking restitution of their rights.

"Jaafari's previous cabinet performed poorly," said Mahmood Othman, a member of the Kurdistan Alliance. "He didn't [empower] the ministers to make decisions, and only represented the UIA's point of view in the government."

Kurdish politicians, including Iraqi president Jalal Talabani as well as members of the National Assembly, are now playing hardball with the UIA. The Kurdistan Alliance, the second most powerful bloc in parliament, is insisting that the cabinet include opposition voices such as the Iraqi National List led by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia.

Jaafari still enjoys support among many Shia voters and politicians. One UIA parliamentarian, Abbas al-Bayati, said the appointment of a new prime minister lies within the alliance’s gift and should not be about personalities.

"We are maintaining a unified and harmonious stand with Jaafari both inside and outside the parliament," said Bayati. "We will back him."

He added that whereas the interim government had to focus on getting a new constitution in place, its successor will have more power and greater diversity, and will be able to concentrate on addressing the needs facing Iraqis.

Some Baghdad residents are prepared to give Jaafari a chance.

"I am satisfied with Jaafari's nomination," said Zuhair Muhammed, a 45-year-old Shia schoolteacher in Baghdad. "The man is clean and his political history honourable."

Some said that Jaafari was not in power long enough to write him off as a poor leader.

Zakiya Khalifa, who heads the non-government group Women’s Renaissance in the capital, said, "He wasn't familiar with government duties and stirred up many problems with other blocs. He should learn from his past mistakes.

“He needs to choose competent ministers who will avoid sectarianism and party quotas, and he must put a stop to the unilateralism that grew up during his time in power."

Political analyst Thair Juma offers a similar prescription for broader-based rule.

"Jaafari will face major challenges during the next four years," he said. "He should compromise by establishing a national and democratic base."

Zaineb Naji is an IWPR trainee journalist in Baghdad.

http://www.iwpr.net/?p=icr&s=f&o=259806&apc_state=henh