Iraqi Poll’s Winners and Losers – According to US Forecast
Wednesday was the single most deadly day for US forces in Iraq ; 36 servicemen died – 31 in a helicopter crash and five in anti-insurgent operations at trouble spots. At least 25 Iraqis were also killed in insurgent attacks on party offices and police centers. In counter-strikes, US troops uncovered a round dozen bomb cars In the northern city of Mosul rigged ready for detonation on election-day in three days time. US troops also raided Hit in Anbar Province, where many followers of al Qaeda’s Iraq commander, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, went to ground in flight from Fallujah.
Despite the Iraqi Sunni boycott, al-Zarqawi’s imprecations against the general election, and the unprecedented level of bloodletting, an certain number of the 40,000 polling stations across the country will almost certainly open on time Sunday, January 30.
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That was one of the starting points on which Gregory Hooker, chief analyst of CENTCOM, the American command running the war in Iraq, presupposed his detailed forecast of election results.
This forecast, commissioned by CENTOM commander General John Abizaid, was first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 190 on January 21.
The second premise was that orderly vote-counting would likewise take place notwithstanding threats of sabotage.
The Hooker forecast is essentially a simulation exercise based on US and Iraqi intelligence data gathered in the last six months, together with estimates of opinion openly canvassed in towns up and down the country.
The level of participation and the results of this pivotal election will bear strongly on the Bush administration’s second term Iraq policy, the tasks facing US armed forces, the chances of the elected national assembly taking up its responsibilities, including the drafting of a new national constitution, and the prospects of an elected government exercising authority.
? Altogether 111 political entities – parties, individuals or coalitions – are running for the 275 National Assembly seats.
? A total of 7,785 candidates are registered on the national ballot
? Eligible voters in Iraq: 14.27 million
? Eligible voters outside Iraq: 1.2 – 2 million (only one-quarter of whom registered).
? More than 130 lists were submitted by the December 15, 2004 deadline for registration. Nine were multi-party coalition blocs while 102 were lists presented by single Iraqi parties.
? There are two major political blocs – Shiite and Kurdish:
The Shiite Unified Iraqi Alliance list submitted 228 candidates representing 16 Iraqi political groups including the dominant Shiite factions. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq – SCIRI, heads this list, followed by Ibrahim Al-Jafari, head of the al-Dawa Party.
? The two Kurdish parties headed by Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani decided to run together on the Kurdish list.
? Both the Iraqi interim prime minister Iyad Allawi and Iraqi president Ghazi al-Yawar submitted their own lists of candidates. Allawi’s party, the Iraqi National Accord – INC, submitted a 240-candidate coalition, while al-Yawar leads an 80-member slate representing the Iraqi Grouping.
For elections held now, Hooker projects the following figures:
The Shiite Unified Iraqi Alliance list – 43.8% = 120 national assembly seats.
The Kurdish list – a surprising 36.4% (more than twice their 16-18% proportion of the general population) = 100 seats.
The Iraqi National Accord – 8.1% = 22 seats. (A formula is being actively sought to retain him as premier even if his showing is low.)
The Iraqi Communist party (the best organized) – 1.6% = 5 seats.
All the Assyrian, Turkomen and Yazdi minorities together – 4 seats.
All the rest – 5 seats.
The first conclusion reached by our analysts is that, while the leading Shiite UIA bloc can expect to be the big winner of the election, the real victor will be the Shiite cleric who assembled and founded the alliance, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and his inner circle. The slate he drew up of candidates to the legislature reflects his political aspirations and cunning: of the 120 registered, the first 60 are independents with no parties behind them and will therefore be totally dependent on Sistani himself for support.
Al-Hakim’s SCIRI will get no more than 14 assembly seats, while al-Jafari’s al Dawa must be content with 12. The former rebel cleric Moqtada Sadr’s following will match al Dawa with 12 places in the legislature
The slate he assembled also pushes pro-Tehran and Iran’s chosen men down to the unrealistic bottom.
Sistani wants to see non-clerical ministers in the post-election government but will insist on incorporating Islamic law as the basis of the national constitution.
The Kurds owe their projected big win to three prime causes:
1. The union of the two principal lists, which will help them carry districts in which each faction is fragmentary, like Iraq’s second largest town of Mosul and certain quarters of Baghdad.
2. Major concessions by Sistani in Kirkuk, where he endorsed the transfer of tens of thousands of Kurdish voters into the city. Quietly underway at this moment is the largest demographic transformation in Iraq since the war began, an abrupt reversal of the population displacement conducted by Saddam Hussein. Sunni families are being pushed out of Kirkuk to the Sunni Triangle and replaced by incoming Kurds. Turkomen, Assyrians and Yazdis gnash their teeth but have not the power to interfere in the Kurdish takeover of the mixed city.
3. Another key Sistani concession was his consent to local elections taking place in Kurdish regions for a Kurdish national assembly at the same time as the general election. In return, the Kurdish leaders have granted Sistani a powerful tool of government, a promise to join his Unified Iraqi Bloc in a coalition administration.
The Shiite cleric has little to fear from this alliance. He knows the Kurds are only interested in expanding their own self-government and will therefore not muscle in on the central administration with power-sharing demands. Their backing, however, provides insurance for stable Shiite-dominated government in the long term.
The Sunni Muslim minority can hardly be expected to sit still as the Shiites and Kurds split up the post-war spoils of power.