Blogs > Liberty and Power > What Do the ‘Elections’ in Iraq Mean?

Jan 31, 2005 9:19 pm

What Do the ‘Elections’ in Iraq Mean?

The Iraqi ‘election’ of the 31st January was, of course, purely a PR exercise. The majority of the ‘candidates’ remained & still remain, unknown, lest they be killed, injured, or kidnapped. Instead, ‘voters’ mostly cast their ‘ballots’ for a political party or a cluster of parties (but see below.) Seats will be allocated according to the proportion of votes for that party or grouping. At that point the members of the constituent assembly come out of hiding (if they dare) & draw up a constitution for the hapless Iraqis. Some members will discover they have been ‘elected’ without their knowledge. Two further stages are set down for the full exercise (further ‘elections’ - of sorts - are scheduled for August & December.) But this is a case, if ever there was one, of counting chickens only *after they hatch…

Newspapers now are full of congratulations for a dangerous job well done, for the considerable courage that Iraqis showed (which they did.) -- On Sunday, TV screens were filled with long queues of people waiting to cast their ‘ballots’. The latter showed up well, as they were outstanding in size. -- They had to be, to accommodate all the parties, groups, & those brave (or rash) enough to actually place their names there. -- The boxes were taken away & counting was shown to begin. The UN had some 40 ‘observers’ around -- well, all that makes it an election, doesn’t it? The whole exercise was directed principally at the US electorate, of course -- for whom the reality is as unimaginable as the surface of Pluto…

What we see now in Iraq is a continuing power struggle -- to control the massive oil revenues that will eventually flow in openly. When Saddam tried to add Kuwaiti oil revenues to his own, he was forcibly thrown back. After that, it was politically impossible that he should continue to enjoy even his own revenues. Hence ‘sanctions’ - embargoes on the (open) export of Iraqi oil. But the *continued reduction of oil output in Iraq was also politically & economically impossible. Once output could be increased again :- those political groups who could replace Saddam stood to gain vast & growing sums, as, of course, did the oil companies. Hence Iraq was *re-invaded - to overthrow Saddam Hussein & re-establish the flow of oil revenues. (in due course.) And hence the ‘election’ etc. - to bring in the replacement rulers in a manner which the US electorate & journalists everywhere would be able to grasp.

Thus the ‘insurgents’ - so-called - are simply amongst those groups struggling - against other Iraqi groups - for power. In attacking occupation soldiers, these groups attack the allies of those Iraqis most likely to exercise power in the longer run. Most of these ‘insurgents’ come from Sunni political groupings. Sunnis are, of course, a minority in Iraq (see below.)

Far more of the ordinary Iraqis have suffered - & continue to suffer - from bombs & the like, than occupation soldiers. In addition, ordinary Iraqis are killed & injured by the tens of thousands, as they get caught in the crossfire. Once again, ordinary people are the helpless meat in the sandwich between contenders for power.

The prospect of controlling massive oil revenues is, of course, what holds together - & will continue to hold together - all those who will eventually emerge, openly, as the ruling groups in Iraq. The majority are Shi’ites - which means that they are already closely linked with the rulers of Iran. Indeed the man with the greatest political influence on Shi’i Iraqis today, is an Irani subject (the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.) Other established ruling groups come from amongst the Kurds. The latter control the main oilfields - so they will have to be conciliated with a goodish share of the revenues. American administrators have cunningly given Kurdish rulers a veto over the constitution. But it remains to be seen what sort of political arrangements will actually appear in time, & will actually endure.

For the immediate run, it is reported that the American military will ‘accelerate’ the training of Iraqi soldiers & police, in preparation for ending the occupation. That means more half- & semi-trained types, well-armed, running around, to add to people’s woes. The various power contenders will have plenty of armed fighting men to call on.

Meanwhile, the struggle for power goes on. It will eventually have to stop - so that oil revenues can start rolling into government coffers again, & the various ruling groups ( & their political supporters) can have their various shares.

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