[Marxism] Supporters of Mahdi army, Chalabi will be on Shia slate in Iraq election

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Dec 2 10:41:00 MST 2004

[Translated from *Libération* (Paris)] 
** Radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters are ready for the January
30 elections ** 
Libération (Paris) December 2, 2004 Page 9 
[PHOTO CAPTION:  In Sadr City on Tuesday, Baghdad's large Shiite suburb,
Iraqis pass an American armored transport on patrol.] 
SADR CITY -- Election fever has not yet produced its tracts and posters,
but Shiite groups, eager to participate in the Jan. 30 election, are
already in battle array.  Even Moqtada al-Sadr, who changes positions so
often, and who twice already this year has risen in revolt against the
American army, has finally joined the pro-election camp.  This has
produced a sharp divide between the Shiite and Sunni parties, the latter
either hostile to the elections or demanding their postponement.  The
chief Shiite groups have now assembled a common list, expected to be
colored green.  It was the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most
prestigious of the Shiite religious leaders, who obtained agreement that
the "House of Shia" (60% of the population) be grouped together before
giving the list his blessing. 
Al-Sadr's supporters have thus joined the other parties, despite their
heretofore stormy relations.  Its candidacies will be individual, since
they will not refer to the Mahdi Army, the radical leader's militia.
"We are participating in the election discreetly.  Not publicly," sais
Naïm al-Qaadi, one of Moqtada al-Sadr's political officials in Sadr
City, the Baghdad Shiite suburb where the Mahdi Army has a strong base.
On the common list, which counts some 200 candidates, they are getting
the lion's share:  28% of the posts at stake, according to Naïm
al-Qaadi.  "We've protested, because that's not enough.  We should have
had more.  But we accepted for the sake of Shiite unity," he says,
regretfully.  According to other sources, Moqtada's participation was
conditional on the number of positions on the common list his
representatives would obtain. 
As a result, the other Shiite parties are far behind.  According to the
same official, the three Dawa parties -- the result of successive splits
within that organization, the oldest Islamist group in the Shiite world
-- have obtained 10%, 8%, and 4% of the posts, compared to 12% for the
Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (close to Iran).
Another surprise: The Iraqi National Council, the party of Ahmed
Chalabi, Washington's ex-protégé, is on the "green list."  A member of
the now-defunct Interim Governing Council (the first Iraqi executive put
in place by the coalition), he fell into disgrace in June.  The United
States and the U.N. picked Iyad Allawi over him to head the government.
It seems that it was due to Sistani's insistence that Chalabi, too, who
is considered a "secular Shiite," was included in the "House of Shia." 
Sistani failed, however, to bring Allawi into the fold, and the latter's
party, National Accord, will present its own list.  The religious leader
sent a high official to visit Allawi in an attempt to persuade him.
Some Shiite officials say that his refusal is motivated by the presence
of his rival, Chalabi, on the "green list."  It is also possible that
Allawi, who is cultivating the image of a national secular leader,
preferred to be at the head of an independent list, in order to obtain
votes outside the Shiite electorate. 
Unlike the Sunnis, the Shiites are awaiting the election impatiently.
"All my life, I've been waiting to vote.  Even if there's some fraud,
that doesn't matter.  First elections can't be perfect," emphasizes a
Shiite in Baghdad. So far, some 200 "political entities" have already
been certified out of the 
228 requests to participate in the elections. 
The American Army will reinforce its presence, bringing its contingent
138,000 to 150,000 soldiers, a level not seen since the March 2003
intervention, the Pentagon confirmed yesterday.  "The objective is
essentially to provide security for the elections," said Gen. David
Rodriguez.  "But another consideration is maintaining pressure on the
insurgents, following the operation in Fallujah." 
The contingent of American forces reached 148,000 in May 2003, two
months after the invasion of Iraq. 
Translated by Mark K. Jensen Associate Professor of French Department of
Languages and Literatures Pacific Lutheran University Tacoma, Washington
98447-0003 Phone: 253-535-7219 Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
E-mail: jensenmk at plu.edu 
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