Friday, March 26, 2010

Allawi reported biggest vote getter in Iraqi election

My feel is that the results likely have been tampered with at some point during the process between when the votes were cast and when they were reported weeks later, but so far I have not seen persuasive evidence that this is the case. I don't give Iraq the same presumption of fairness I give Iran for several reasons, one being that Iran is not under foreign occupation with an asset of the foreign power's security establishment on the ballot. Another being that Iran's system, where votes are counted locally with representatives of the candidates able at each station to witness the counts, which are then publicized, is actually very transparent.

So far I have not found a reasonable explanation of what has been happening for the over two weeks between when the votes were cast and the report of the results. This is not proof that results were being doctored over this time, but unlike in Iran's case one cannot say that specific people from multiple factions would know if a particular voting district was reported incorrectly. I'm not sure Iraqi results have been released with sufficient detail that if the numbers have been altered the people who actually counted the votes would even know.

On the other hand, what I think about Iraq's election does not matter any more than what I think about Iran's election. Assuming the Shiites are victims of electoral fraud, what is important is the resources they can bring to bear to salvage their political situation. The situation is still fluid. We do not know if there is going to be an attempt to seat Allawi as Prime Minister or what seats in what positions he'll ask to be filled by people favorable to the United States.

What we do know is that the United States does not intend, if it can help it, to leave Iraq to parties sympathetic to Iran. The US under Obama, in this and several other respects, is actually more confrontational with Iran that the US was towards the end of George W. Bush's term.

Bush was moved away from his confrontational stance at the urging of the military because Iran's help was needed to restrain Shiite anti-US armed organizations. It seems that until Iran re-establishes a credible threat to damage US interests in a way that the US military will respond to, which unfortunately means deaths of US soldiers, the United States will not seek cooperation and agreement with Iran regarding Iraq.

The process is still too fluid for me to begin to see what is going to emerge as Iraq's post 2010 election power structure. The Shiites have been put on notice that their control of the country is being challenged with the support of the United States. We have to see how they will respond to this challenge.


Anonymous said...

he may be the SINGLE greatest vote getter, but he doesn't have a majority nor a ruling coalition. thus the king maker will still be Sadr & the State of Law party (sans Maliki who Sadr doesn't like) and some Kurd combo.

See Juan Cole's informed comment.

Arnold Evans said...

I'm not comfortable with the idea that Allawi got more seats than any other party without assistance. I have to admit that this is exactly Juan Cole's argument that Ahmadinejad won the election through fraud except 1) the Iranian process is far more transparent 2) I favor investigation and accepting the results if no fraud turns up 3) I fundamentally trust that there is a resourceful opposition on the scene that can and will produce an outcome that is satisfactory.

But if there was fraud, it is a sign of a US intention to fight the Shiites more than it is important in itself. If there was fraud, the US is trying to get Allawi either in or significant power conceded to him. He has more resources aligned toward that goal than just enough to report that he won the most seats.

What we are going to see in the next weeks is the Shiite/Iranian response to what in a way is a declaration of electoral war by the CIA.

The US still has suitcases full of money and the most powerful military in the country. The Shiites have their own assets. We just have to see how it plays out.

The Iraqi electoral process seems perfectly designed to allow for undetected fraud though.

lidia said...

Is it not funny that just after USA' accusitions of "Iran's stolen elections" two elections in USA's occupied places were such shameless rigging. Arnold, it was nice of you to give Iraq's sham a benefit of a doubt, but the very time of "counting votes" in Iraq is ridiculous beiong any beningn explanation.

Lysander said...

It is plausible that Sunnis who fought both an insurgency against the US and a civil war against the Shiites, now see an alliance with the US as a means to regain some power.

Add to that the banning of Salih Mutlak and some others from the election eliminated Allawi's Sunni competitors. Add again the financial and political support the US placed behind Allawi. Now a Allawi victory becomes plausible, even without actual ballot rigging.

Regardless, now Allawi has won and it no longer matters how. With regard to Iran, how much difference will it make? My guess is not much at all. He will spend the next several months trying to form a coalition. After failing, someone else from one of the two main Shiite parties will give it a try. Or new elections will be called. I believe this same game was recently played in Lebanon and Iran won. Her odds are even better in Iraq.

The only way Allawi becomes PM is by Iran's consent. And its possible Iran will actually give it. Yes he is a CIA asset, but intelligence assets switch sides all the time. In exchange for favorable concessions from Saudi Arabia and the US, Iran could plausibly give its permission. After all, Allawi would only be PM with both Shiite parties in his coalition. The army and state security services are firmly under their control as would be the most important ministries.

The bottom line, Allawi isn't going to be the means to meaningful US influence in Iraq.