Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Plot Thickens: State of Law Asked for the Cancellation of the Votes of Three Candidates

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 27 May 2010 10:57

The political dimension to the latest attempt at candidate disqualification in the Iraqi parliamentary election has now been spelt out: In an interview, IHEC commissioner Amal al-Birqadar has made it clear that there is a specific request from State of Law (SLA) for the votes of the three candidates, two from Iraqiyya (Najm al-Harbi in addition to Abdallah Hasan Rashid) and one from INA, to be annulled, on the basis of two legal convictions and membership in the Iraqi armed forces respectively. If those votes are cancelled, preliminary calculations show that SLA could suddenly emerge as the biggest bloc in parliament.

As for the IHEC response, it has emerged that it has proceeded to replace Harbi and Rashid by others from Iraqiyya, whereas the INA candidate, Furat al-Sharaa from Basra, has apparently been successful in presenting evidence that he is no longer a member of the armed forces (the strict legal criterion on this should however relate not to today’s situation but to the date of nomination, which was last autumn). Birqadar goes far in suggesting that IHEC considers there will be no annulment of votes (and hence no seat-allocation changes), but she also says IHEC will make a decision within days.

Birqadar does not refer to a specific law or regulation but says IHEC’s position has been made clear on this in public: If any candidate becomes non-eligible, the next person on the list will follow. This could be something that is buried in an IHEC regulation, but it might also simply refer to article 14 of the 2005 election law which still stands, and which says that “if a member [i.e. deputy] loses his seat for whatever reason, he shall be followed by the next person on the list”.

إذا فقد عضو المجلس مقعده لأي سبب يحل محله المرشح التالي في قائمته طبقا للترتيب الوارد فيها

Since this procedure has already been confirmed by IHEC as applicable to the current situation in Nineveh – where a recently-elected MP for Iraqiyya, Bashar al-Agaydi has been murdered – it should mean that it applies generally to the transitional period between the announcement of the uncertified result and the swearing in of the new parliament. As such it should also make all kinds of politically-motivated post-election exclusion attempts redundant (whether on de-Baathification or other grounds) since the seat allocation will remain unaffected regardless.

From the point of view of democratic theory this is a promising stance by IHEC, but it has to be noted that Birqadar is considered the IHEC commissioner that is closest to Iraqiyya, and it will be interesting to see what the others conclude. Faraj al-Haydari, the chief of the commission linked to the KDP, is however also on record saying that annulled candidates should get their votes transferred to their lists. In general INA is thought to be more influential within IHEC than SLA, but lately SLA has increasingly managed to get what it wants from the Iraqi judiciary. Today there are reports that the courts have asked IHEC for certain clarifications pertaining to the certification of the result.

12 Responses to “The Plot Thickens: State of Law Asked for the Cancellation of the Votes of Three Candidates”

  1. observer said

    if SLA manages to get a favorable “ruling” we will know that there is no such fiction as an independent judiciary in Iraq. Given the desire of the US to withdraw forces under any circumstances, the DOS may elect to let SLA get away with it since Iraqia will not have a snow balls’ chance in hell at forming a government at that point and the political stalemate will be easier to resolve.

    It will not surprise me a bit to see the US looking for short term solutions and not looking after the long term implication for Iraq.

  2. Gösta Grönroos said

    “If those votes are cancelled, preliminary calculations show that SLA could suddenly emerge as the biggest bloc in parliament.” What is the calculation redistributing seats from Iraqyia to SLA making the latter the biggest block?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Yeah, I agree with you, Observer, at times I get the impression that a smooth surface in the short term (i.e. on 31 August 2010) is all that matters in certain corners. Within this paradigm there is a desire for “checking the Sunni box”, whatever that means (and the “Kurdish” one as well), but not much in the way of thinking about Iraq’s long-term development.

  4. Reidar Visser said

    Gösta, there are a few more details on this in the previous post.

  5. observer said

    I am too busy to keep on checking.. i just posted a long response to your previous blog. Of all the blogs I read, yours seem to be the most “connected”. But still, i feel that you need more insight into what is happening on the ground to make the analyses more relevant. Following the Iraq political theater through news accounts is misleading most of the time. You need more talk face to face with politicians and their aids to have a ‘real” feel for the situation. But even that is not enough, as politicians live in protected zones and they are not connected and rooted in the people.

    It is my opinion that the Kurds will go the way of Barzani as Talbani is busy with trying to hold PUK together (there is a congress this coming week in suli) and as such he is weaker on the ground and thus has to yield to Barzani. Barzani;s relation with Allawi goes back to 1996 when the latter refused to condemn Barzani for using the Iraqi army to defeat Talbani in the Kurdish civil war. These two treat each other based on tribal leadership values. They do not give promises that they can not deliver on!!!!. Barzani does not trust Iran and remembers who supported Talbani in the civil war and recalls the 1975 cut off of aid after teh Jazaer treaty. History matters in this part of the world….

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Observer, your other comment was published as number 39 on the previous post. It has been online for some time already, but you may need to refresh the page.

    In general, I’m just trying to offer some ideas on subjects where the contemporary Iraqi political process intersects with areas in which I have an academic interest as an historian, such as the evolution of the state system in the Gulf region and questions of decentralisation. I think it is better to write something than to write nothing at all, and then others can hopefully fill in the missing bits. The blog format makes it possible for people with other approaches to make input based on their own specialisations and constructive contributions are always more than welcome.

  7. observer said

    Please do not take my words as “critique”.. Your blogs are a lot more analytical and that is why I periodically come back here.

    My frustration is real, however, at the “talking heads” in DC as they tend to take their information from the press and repeat it to each other and thus become the “truth” when in fact there is not much that meets the eye in the plethora of “news outlets”. Even the LA Times and New York Times reports are not very good. Reporters have to be able to speak the language and understand the culture to be able to put out a good story.

    Anyway, with respect to the elections, your analyses are very good and have a lot of information that is missing from other sources. Your number crunching is exemplary. As for the maneuvering between the various political blocks, well – let us just say that there is a need for more “spice” based on “inside” information.

    Since you are a historian, I think there is a lot that can be gained from going back into the history of Iraq, and specifically the Kurds and their century long struggle for self determination, and the evolution of Islamic parties vis-a-vis the army interference in politics. Be that as it may, In my view, how the Kirkuk problem is resolved will have an impact not only on Iraq, but the region. That is the “event beyond the horizon” that is possibly affecting much of the maneuvering today, even more important than the Iran vs. US/Arab/Israel proxy struggle on going.

    The Islamic parties are lined up against Da3wa simply because they are convinced that another 4 years of Da3wa will allow Da3wa to be as deeply entrenched in Sulta (government) as the Baathies became in 1973 and it will be hard to dislodge them. Hence the internal machinations of SLA vs. INA can be understood better with that lesson from history. It is not about Maliki (or his replacement) – rather it is about balance between Da3wa and Sadris and SCIRI. The negotiations before the formation of the She3a block are telling as the INA was willing to give SLA 48% (not the 50% +1) the latter was asking for. Of course that negotiation was being done with the mis-calcualtion that the lists would be closed. Sistani blew that from under the She3a parties. Had Da3wa (and INA) known that the lists would be open, you would have seen a different outcome and all together different candidates.

    Anyway, i do not want to sound like I am “lecturing”.. The above is just one example why I “feel” that the analyses based on numbers only is not correct as numbers can not reflect the complexity and the inter-personal relationships nor the historic events affecting today.

  8. Reidar and Observer,
    I don’t share your pessimism; I don’t think the US will respond to the Iraqi crisis in a characteristically short term manner because there are two external factors affecting such a decision: The EU has clout and is concerned, and in the regional context of Iranian embargo, your Iraq scenario (Observer) cancels out Iran’s policy.
    Observer, regarding your comment #7, personally I agree with most of what you write but you are judging motivations, intentions and other subjective matters. You sound clever and in the know but you can’t be completely objective. Reidar, on the other hand, deals with news reports and balances intentional information such as yours.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, I hope you are right but I must say I feel most of the EU’s interest in Iraq consists of sending trade delegations to the KRG and inviting Barzani to meetings in European capitals. (And returning Kurdish refugees as well, not to forget.)

    As for sources, let’s appreciate diversity. Everyone cannot cover everything. We all go into this with our particular baggage but Iraq is a complex country and deserves many different points of view and competing explanations.

  10. observer said

    Like Reider, I hope you are right. In my case I shifted from glass is half full to half empty. It did not happen in a vacuum. As for style of analyses, it is precisely my point that we should add to the number crunching and “just the facts” to get a good handle on potential outcomes. In the US, they frequently hold “war games” to work through a problem and plan accordingly. Kissinger started his career being a moderator of such games.

    On Iran vs. the US, never discount the possibility that the US may settle with the worst option. Deal with a nuclear Iran. There is no military option, and the proposed embargo, even if passed, can result in a region wide war, from Hizballah in Lebanon, to Hamas in Ghaza to making Iraq a living hell. Further, much an be gained from a long term tension between Iran and the Arabs, least of which is the turning of Arab anger against Israel to Arab anger against Khawarj/She3a.

    Meanwhile, please do realize that we are in Day 77 after the elections and we are no where near a deal. They are talking about instituting a point system for each of the ministries and positions and set a numerical quota for each wining bloc based on its seats. A more asinine system, I have yet to hear of. What are these people coming up with these ideas smoking? Maybe Biden was right after all. A soft division is surely better than this horse trading.

  11. observer said

    The point system was used to distribute ministries during Jaafari’s time, but the majors (Siadia) were arranged by negotiations. Maybe that is what they are talking about now too… WIll find out more shortly.

  12. Kermanshahi said

    Observer, there has been tension between Barzani and Talabani in the past and though this might happen in the future their current relation is quite stable. Barzani has gained the upper hand due to the creation of Gorran, however he realises that he needs the PUK for otherwise all other parties of Kurdistan will likely create a governing coalition without him. On the ground the KDP has never been stronger than the PUK, not in the early 90s when the PUK succesfully captured Hewler and was about to eliminate Barzani, not in the mid-90s when Barzani needed Saddam to help him and not in the late 90s when a PUK counter attack re-captured Silemani and about half of the territory they lost to the KDP during Saddam’s offensive.

    On national policies however, there is no difference between Massoud Barzani, Jalal Talabani or even Nawshirwan Mustafa, they all want the same for the Kurds, you can’t have one of them “having their way” because they all have the same stance, so either all Kurds have their way, or none of them have their way. And though Ayad Allawi himself could possibly still come to terms with the Kurds, there is no way ever an agreement can be made between Iraqiya and the Kurds as the Iraqiya is full of racists and Ba’athists, most of which ran on an anti-Kurdish platform. There’s no way that all of Allawis Sunni allies are gonna back down from everything they stand for and neither Barzani or Talabani wants to become the Kurdish Mahmoud Abbas, since they have the power to get much better.

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