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AFTER IRAQ´S VOTE (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) By AMIR TAHERI 01/30/05)Source: http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/39432.htm NEW YORK POST NEW YORK POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 country.

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 include:

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 Muhammed Sistani.

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 reconciliation.

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 institutions.

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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