Saturday, March 20, 2010

I give less of a presumption of fairness to Iraq's elections than to Iran's

From the most recent results over at the, which is a US blog, Allawi has a lead in Iraq's votes and there are more uncounted votes in his strong areas than in his weak areas. The trend as of now is that Allawi's list will be the one with the most votes and he will be the first candidate presented to be Iraq's next prime minister.

We're talking about an open long-term CIA asset. One who did very poorly in the previous election, and one that the United States favors clearly over his opponent as it did last time. Last time, if memory serves, Sadr and Maliki ran on one list, and if they had done so this election would have again had a commanding lead in number of seats.

As it is, the Prime Minister and President require two-thirds backing to be seated so between them Sadr and Maliki have a veto over the next government if they choose to use it.

More interesting to me is the question: was the election fair? One similarity between Iran and Iraq is that the opposition is resourceful and can be expected to make its case using formal levers of power. Rafsanjani had no need to call college kids to protest in the streets, risk their lives and confront the security forces. There are institutional factions loyal to Rafsanjani throughout the country who would be able to detect and report irregularities. Rafsanjani also is connected enough that if there were convincing irregularities, he could make sure they were acted upon.

Maliki, assuming Allawi is awarded more votes, also has connections and resources that he could use to uncover electoral fraud. If there was fraud, I expect Maliki to be able to make a reasonable argument as to what happened, including a plausible explanation of how it could have happened. Rafsanjani and Mousavi never were able to present such an explanation in Iran.

But the votes are counted centrally and released in a crawlingly slow process. Without any more information, this seems like a process that offers opportunities for fraud. I'm not sure what oversight procedures exist to guarantee the integrity of the vote count, but if Maliki and/or Sadr challenge the results, we'll get a very close look at the procedures over the next few weeks.

Iraq is under occupation today, and the general rule is that fair elections are impossible under foreign occupation. Iraq might be a special case because there are two hostile factions that compete in the country. Iran has the resources to detect outright fraud in Iraq's elections and then to apply pressure for fraudulent results to be reversed.

I do not trust the Obama administration not to try to fix the results. I do trust that Maliki, Sadr, Sistani and the Iranians have the resources necessary to prevent Iraq from becoming a new Egypt with Allawi playing the role of Sadat or Mubarak. If the United States did try, and Allawi is reported to have gotten more votes than there are Iraqis who really support him, and I consider this a very plausible possibility, then I'm pretty sure it will backfire and leave the US in a weaker position in Iraq than if they had not done so.

The next few weeks in Iraq may be eventful.

1 comment:

Lysander said...

In any other instance not involving the US, if a candidate favored by the occupying army won, no one would be surprised. No one would assume it is a true reflection of the public will.

Still, it is plausible that Alawi won for the following reason. The Sunnis who lost Iraq's civil war see an alliance with the US as the only way to get back to power.

The US, obviously, wants to go back to the status quo ante and remake Iraq into a 'counterweight' against Iran.

How that plays out is hard to guess. I do not think the Shiite south will tolerate Alawi as PM. The army, police and security services are already under their control and so are several armed militias that for now keep their heads down. They have all the means needed to keep Alawi away and the US probably does not want to fight another insurgency, this time against the Shiites.

Still, there is always a small possibility and it is worth a try from the US perspective. They may be able to extract some concession from the other parties.

Most likely, they will keep the coalition forming process going for so long that they will have to call another election and Alawi will not be able to duplicate his success.

There is also a possibility that Alawi can be turned. Look for him to visit Iran and publicly guarantee Iraq's friendship. He would then be the Prime Minester dependent on a pro Iran coalition and pro Iran security services. The overall balance will remain as it has been.