Friday, January 28, 2005

How do I post over the fold?

How do I make a fold? Anyway I got this by email from the wildfirejo list. Here it is in full until I work out how to make a fold.

A Brief Guide to the Iraqi Elections

1. Iraqis are voting not for a party or an individual
but for a list.
• There are a very few individuals and parties
standing as such but the majority are part of lists.
There is, for example, a ‘main Shia list’ and several
other Shia lists, some Kurdish lists, and so on.
• The lists contain, between them, over 7000
candidates, many of whom are not even named for
security reasons.
• That means people are more or less compelled to vote
not according to the credibility or policies of a
person or party but for an ethic group, a national
group or a religious faction.

2. Iraqi people have no opportunity to elect their
president or prime minister.
• The elections will create a 275 member National
Assembly which will select a 3 member presidency
council, which in turn will select a prime minister.
It’s assumed, but nowhere stated in the ‘transitional
law’ that these selections would come from among the
275 elected members.

3. None of the elected members of the National
Assembly will represent a locality.
• Former US viceroy Paul Bremer decided the entire
country should be a single constituency so the
electoral system creates a national proportional
representation.
• Anyone who gets a 275th of the vote will get a seat,
regardless of how many others are elected from their
city or province.
• The system creates a likelihood of
over-representation at the national level for groups
which turn out in high numbers. For example, in
Kurdistan, where security is much better and people
are more in favour of the elections, far more people
are likely to vote, giving the Kurds greater
representation than their numbers warrant. Of course,
they were unrepresented, to all intents and purposes,
for decades (thanks to Winston Churchill and all who
followed him) but the solution isn’t to simply shift
the inequalities.

4. Large areas of the country are not expected to be
able to vote.
• Interim leader Ayad Allawi stated that there are 4
provinces where the security situation militates
against voting – he didn’t mention that they include
Baghdad, and up to half of the population.
• The people of Falluja have not been registered to
vote or given voting cards.
• A lot of Iraqis believe that a lot of the attacks
and unrest have been orchestrated by the occupying
forces using covert operations, stock-in-trade of both
the interim prime-minister Allawi and the current US
viceroy (‘Ambassador’) John Negroponte. The areas
where security ‘militates against voting’ are those
where voters can’t be relied on to vote for someone
‘unpalatable’.
• There’s been intimidation in some areas – Felicity
Arbuthnot reported a case of a family visited by their
local shopkeeper who asked for their ration book ‘for
safekeeping’. Ration books are needed as ID for voters
and the family refused. Later the shopkeeper came back
in tears – he’d been threatened, on his family’s
lives, to collect all the ration books.

5. The rules for polling and who can or can’t be a
candidate were set, essentially, by the US.
• Rules were set by the Independent Iraqi Electoral
Commission, or some similar arrangement of those
words. The group, bar one or perhaps two members, were
appointed by Paul Bremer, before handing over “power”
in June.
• The Commission has absolute power to bar any
candidate or organisation. It has banned a number of
candidates but is so secretive that nobody knows who
has been forbidden or for what reason. There’s been no
due process, no establishing a case against a
candidate before barring.
• Candidates and organisations taking part have to
swear allegiance to Bremer's law
• One of the bars is “moral turpitude”. That in itself
is not unusual- many countries don’t allow a person
with certain convictions, for example, from standing.
The bar does not, though, apply to either Ahmed
Chalabi, a US appointee to the interim government who
has been convicted (in his absence) of massive fraud,
or Ayad Allawi, US-appointed interim prime minister,
who was a covert CIA operative commanding bombings
including a school bus and a cinema in Iraq during
Saddam’s rule.

6. Expat voters are expected to decide the result.
• A huge number of people living outside Iraq will be
allowed to vote. There are 3 polling stations in the
UK, several in the US and others in fourteen countries
around the world. Contacting of expats to invite them
to register appears to have been selective.
• The UN opposed the expat vote as highly vulnerable
to fraud but the election planners chose not to
listen.
• Because expat voters don’t face the security risks
of Iraqis in-country, a higher proportion of those
eligible are expected to turn out.
• It’s a bit unclear exactly what are the criteria for
being allowed to vote but it appears to be possible
even for people who have never lived in Iraq but whose
parents did.

7. Certain parties and individuals have also been
funded by the US.
• The International Republican Institute, an
organisation linked to the US Republican party has
been funding certain groups in their campaigning,
giving a massive advantage.
• It is also believed to be organising the exit polls.
• It orchestrated, among other things, the coup in
Venezuela.

8. Whoever wins, the occupation will go on.
• The US has built enormous bases in Iraq which it has
no intention of withdrawing from.
• The US has already spent more than $100,000,000,000
on the war in Iraq – that’s a hundred thousand million
to most of us, a billion to the US. Bush is requesting
another 80 thousand million dollars to carry on.
• US officials, mainly remaining anonymous, have made
it abundantly clear that the elections are free only
within the parameters set by the US government. The US
is prepared to ‘tolerate’ a limited form of theocracy,
according to one.
• Iraqi candidates are aware that there are ‘red
lines’ as an unnamed Shia official put it – the
election winners will not be at liberty to set any
policy they choose.

9. The new government is already bound.
• The next plebiscite (on a permanent constitution)
has to be held under Bremer's law too: any three of
the eighteen governorates can veto the constitution,
even if the constitution wins 90% of the total vote.
• It was unlawful for Bremer or the occupying powers
to enact any laws, because an occupier is not allowed
to change the laws of the country seized.
Nevertheless, Bremer ruled, and the interim governing
council signed into law, that everything in Iraq is to
be privatised, open to 100% foreign ownership or at
least foreign leasehold for forty years. That includes
resources, amenities and public services.
• Because of the lack of security, little has yet been
sold off but the law, though illegitimate, is
expressed as binding on future governments.
• Iraq is the most indebted country in the world in
terms of its debt to export ratio. Saddam’s wars built
up massive debts, now at $180 billion. Western
countries and the IMF were happy too carry on funding
Saddam with loans and to sell him weapons, including
the chemical weapons and related hardware to attack
the Kurds. Added to that are compensation claims ($30
bn) from the invasion of Kuwait, mainly ‘owed’ to
incredibly wealthy oil companies and such like. Now,
with the constant addition of compound interest
throughout the sanctions, when Iraq was unable to pay
off any debts at all, the debt is immense.
• The Paris Club and others have agreed to a package
of debt relief which is linked to a programme of
‘structural adjustment’ whereby Iraq has to follow
Argentina, Romania and others into disastrous policies
of global capitalism. 30% of debt relief is
unconditional, 30% depends on adopting a ‘standard IMF
policy’ and 20% hangs on a three year review of
implementation of the IMF policy. Iraq hasn’t got any
bargaining power to resist.
• Two of the IMF’s conditions are the ‘opening up’
(read cheap sell off to Bush’s pals) of the Iraqi oil
industry and the rollback of the food ration,
currently the only major social welfare programme,
presumably because it means people with no money get
stuff free instead of paying for it. The leading
candidates have agreed to all this – that’s why they
got the money to become leading candidates.
• The debts left over after the promised, but
conditional, relief are still more than enough to keep
Iraq in servitude for many, many decades to come.

10. Iraq has no free press.
• Allawi and co issued a rule that the press have to
publish versions of events which put the government’s
point of view.
• Press ‘disrespect’ to Allawi is banned.
• Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and an unknown number of
smaller outlets have been banned already for refusing
to conform.

11. The Iraqi people fought for this election.
• Last year, Iraqi people held massive demonstrations
for elections. Other demonstrations had been fired on
by coalition troops so it’s no exaggeration to say
people risked their lives for elections.
• It was only when they realised they faced unrest
from thousands and thousands of ordinary people,
including the ethnic and geographical groups which had
been quiet till then, that the occupying powers backed
down and started working on ways to distort the
election and turn it to their advantage.
• Opposition is nation-wide to the distortions imposed
on the election. Thousands of anti-occupation
activists are being arrested across Iraq (under
martial law).
• Though the preferable option, clearly, must be an
end to the occupation, there were demands from the
Iraqi National Foundation Congress – a far more
representative group than the interim government,
never mind the electoral commissioners, that would
have made the elections substantially more fair:
1. That the elections are supervised by a commission
of figures with known credentials of impartiality and
integrity, internationally and in the Arab and Islamic
world.
2. That this commission supervises all the local
committees in all phases of the elections.
3. That essential changes are made to the still
anonymous Permanent Election Commission¹ appointed by
the American ex-governor contrary to any criteria of
transparency and integrity. As a minimum:
a. to include a representative from each competing
list
b. to include a number of Iraqi active and veteran
judges with known integrity
c. to remove the right to arbitrarily bar any
candidate in the election except through
legal process of incrimination.
4. That measures are taken to ensure safe and fair
conduct of elections in all cities and country towns
as follows:
a. an immediate halt to all military operations
against towns and neighbourhood.
b. withdrawal of all occupation forces from all
towns and neighbourhoods at least
one month before election date.
c. release of all political prisoners regardless o
their political affiliation especially
those not specifically charged.

…with thanks to Dahr Jamail, Ewa Jasiewicz, Gabriel
Carlyle from Voices in the Wilderness and countless
friends in Iraq for helping me make sense of it all.

Cost of the War in Iraq
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