AFTER IRAQ´S VOTE (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) By AMIR TAHERI 01/30/05)
NEW YORK POST
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January 30, 2005 -- DESIGNED to give Iraq a new democratic frame work
at local, provincial and national levels, today´s elections should
also confirm the emergence of a new leadership in the newly-liberated
This emerging leadership will have to develop a national consensus on
a new government, a permanent constitution and the status of the U.S.-
led forces present in the country. It will also have to face and
ultimately defeat determined enemies both at home and abroad: the
remnants of Saddamism, diehard Islamists and some of Iraq´s
neighbors — who all, for different reasons, do not wish it to become
a working democracy.
Some new leaders are former exiles who returned home after
liberation, others are men and women who spent a good part of their
lives under Saddamite tyranny.
The Kurds, a fifth of the population, are the only Iraq community
still led by figures who were around three decades ago. Massoud
Barzani and Jalal Talabani, the leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic
Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, are likely to stay in the
limelight until a new generation of Kurdish politicians takes shape.
The bridge between the two is represented by leaders like interim
government members Hoshyar Zibari and Barham Salih.
Most of the new leaders will be Shiites. Iyad Allawi, the interim
prime minister, is likely to emerge as head of the fourth-largest
group in the National Assembly — not enough support to retain his
current position. (Though he may serve as a compromise candidate for
the rest of the year.)
Ahmad Chalabi, once the darling of the Pentagon and now a bete noire
of Washington, is certain to secure a seat in the new Assembly, but
lacks the support needed to get to the top of Iraqi politics in the
foreseeable future. He could be a key player in the backroom deals
that will become a key feature of politics in the new Iraq.
Other, likely more important, players in the new Shiite leadership
Muhammad Hussein Shahrestani seems to be the leading Shiite candidate
for prime minister. Once head of Saddam´s nuclear project, he fled
into exile when the despot decided to develop nuclear weapons.
Returning last year after two decades of exile, he established
himself as one of the closest political aides of Grand Ayatollah Ali
Abdul-Aziz Hakim, 52, the leader of the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq is likely to be strengthened by the
elections. His group is expected to emerge as the No. 2 Shiite bloc
in the parliament — where he is tipped to become speaker.
Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the leader of the main faction of the Dawa (The
Call) Party, the largest Shiite political group, could emerge as the
Shiite bloc´s candidate for the presidency.
A new generation of Shiite technocrats look to Adel Abdel-Mahdi, a
member of the interim government. A French-educated economist, Abdel-
Mahdi is a contender for the key post of minister of finance.
The most notable Shiite to have openly campaigned for a clearly
secular system of government is Hamid Majid Moussa, leader of the
Iraqi Communist Party. He can play a pivotal role in inter-sectarian
dialogue and compromises.
Despite predictions that Arab Sunnis would boycott the elections and
reject the democratic system, the leadership emerging in Baghdad
includes many prominent Sunnis. Adnan Pachahi, at 82 the grand old
man of Iraqi diplomacy, is likely to remain a key player at least in
the transition period.
But possibly the most effective Arab Sunni leader is likely to be
Ghazi al-Yawar: The incumbent president is likely to be a candidate
for the post again. As sheik of the Shammar, Iraq´s largest tribe
that includes both Sunnis and Shiites, he could be a figure of
Also likely to remain prominent: Defense Minister Hazem al-Shaalan;
Minister of Planning Mahdi al-Hafiz (who could be the Sunni candidate
for premiership) and Minister of Power Iham al-Samaraie, who is
trying to create a centrist bloc with help from Allawi.
Today´s elections must be regarded as the first step on a long road
toward the establishment of credible and durable Iraqi democratic
The 275-seat Assembly will act as both a legislature and a panel to
draft a new constitution. Its main tasks:
* Meet and elect its own officials, including the speaker and his two
deputies, before March 2005.
* Elect the three members of the presidential council — one president
and two vice presidents — by mid-April.
* Elect a new prime minister and Cabinet on the recommendation of the
presidential council, probably by the end of April.
* Draft Iraq´s new Constitution by mid-August.
* Put the draft to a referendum by Oct. 15.
* Hold general parliamentary elections by Dec. 15 (provided the
constitution is approved in the referendum),
* Dissolve itself to make way for the newly elected parliament by
Dec. 31. The new parliament will then appoint a new government.
These tasks are designed not only to institutionalize Iraq´s
democracy but also to train its new leaders in the art of political
horse-trading — a welcome substitute for the Arab tradition of using
violence as the main instrument of winning and retaining power. Amir
Taheri is a member of Benador Associates. (Copyright 2005 NYP
Holdings, Inc. 01/30/05)
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