Friday, January 30, 2009

A huge day for Iraq: provincial elections

The AP's Kim Gamel reports on tomorrow's (Saturday's) provincial elections in Iraq, with the city and region of Mosul (in the Ninewa governorate) looming as a "battleground state" where the stakes are incredibly high. Actually, the stakes are high all across the country, largely because these elections are a 4-years-later do-over of the hugely flawed 2005 elections, which were boycotted by the vast majority of Sunni Arabs as well as most of Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters. That allowed the Shia Arabs as well as the Kurds to dominate provincial councils in governorates that were heavily Sunni. Now's the chance for the Sunni Arabs to assert themselves, which many of them fully expect to do. But that could also reignite Arab v. Kurd frictions, and to the extent that Sunni parties that are perceived to be close to the previously dominant Baath party make a comeback, the results could re-ignite Shiite fears as well as Iran's. The last thing that Iran wants to see is any major reduction in Shiite political power in Iraq, and especially at the hands of Sunni elements.

Also a factor here are the tribal factions, some of which have threatened to reignite the insurgency if their interests aren't served properly in the voting results.

Add to all this the vote-buying, intimidation, and assassinations reported over the last few weeks, and the reports (and rumors - which might as well be factual reports) of fraud that will surely emerge after tomorrow . . . . Well, let's just say that the next few weeks, and how the entire process shakes out, are going to be extremely interesting.

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