On Thursday, Libération (Paris) reported that a common "House of Shia" electoral list, prepared with the Ayatollah Sistani's blessing and to be presented in the Jan. 30 elections, was expected to include representatives attached both to Ahmed Chalabi and Moqtada al-Sadr (though there will "discreetly" be no mention of the latter's Mahdi Army).  --  Iyad Allawi's party is not to be a part of this so-called "green list." ...

[Translated from Libération (Paris)]


By Jean-Pierre Perrin

** Radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters are ready for the January 30 elections **

Libération (Paris)
December 2, 2004
Page 9


[PHOTO CAPTION: In Sadr City on Tuesday, Baghdad's large Shiite suburb, Iraqis pass an American armored transport on patrol.]

SADR CITY -- Election fever has not yet produced its tracts and posters, but Shiite groups, eager to participate in the Jan. 30 election, are already in battle array. Even Moqtada al-Sadr, who changes positions so often, and who twice already this year has risen in revolt against the American army, has finally joined the pro-election camp. This has produced a sharp divide between the Shiite and Sunni parties, the latter either hostile to the elections or demanding their postponement. The chief Shiite groups have now assembled a common list, expected to be colored green. It was the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most prestigious of the Shiite religious leaders, who obtained agreement that the "House of Shia" (60% of the population) be grouped together before giving the list his blessing.


Al-Sadr's supporters have thus joined the other parties, despite their heretofore stormy relations. Its candidacies will be individual, since they will not refer to the Mahdi Army, the radical leader's militia. "We are participating in the election discreetly. Not publicly," sais Naïm al-Qaadi, one of Moqtada al-Sadr's political officials in Sadr City, the Baghdad Shiite suburb where the Mahdi Army has a strong base. On the common list, which counts some 200 candidates, they are getting the lion's share: 28% of the posts at stake, according to Naïm al-Qaadi. "We've protested, because that's not enough. We should have had more. But we accepted for the sake of Shiite unity," he says, regretfully. According to other sources, Moqtada's participation was conditional on the number of positions on the common list his representatives would obtain.

As a result, the other Shiite parties are far behind. According to the same official, the three Dawa parties -- the result of successive splits within that organization, the oldest Islamist group in the Shiite world -- have obtained 10%, 8%, and 4% of the posts, compared to 12% for the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (close to Iran). Another surprise: The Iraqi National Council, the party of Ahmed Chalabi, Washington's ex-protégé, is on the "green list." A member of the now-defunct Interim Governing Council (the first Iraqi executive put in place by the coalition), he fell into disgrace in June. The United States and the U.N. picked Iyad Allawi over him to head the government. It seems that it was due to Sistani's insistence that Chalabi, too, who is considered a "secular Shiite," was included in the "House of Shia."


Sistani failed, however, to bring Allawi into the fold, and the latter's party, National Accord, will present its own list. The religious leader sent a high official to visit Allawi in an attempt to persuade him. Some Shiite officials say that his refusal is motivated by the presence of his rival, Chalabi, on the "green list." It is also possible that Allawi, who is cultivating the image of a national secular leader, preferred to be at the head of an independent list, in order to obtain votes outside the Shiite electorate.

Unlike the Sunnis, the Shiites are awaiting the election impatiently. "All my life, I've been waiting to vote. Even if there's some fraud, that doesn't matter. First elections can't be perfect," emphasizes a Shiite in Baghdad. So far, some 200 "political entities" have already been certified out of the 228 requests to participate in the elections.



The American Army will reinforce its presence, bringing its contingent from 138,000 to 150,000 soldiers, a level not seen since the March 2003 intervention, the Pentagon confirmed yesterday. "The objective is essentially to provide security for the elections," said Gen. David Rodriguez. "But another consideration is maintaining pressure on the insurgents, following the operation in Fallujah."

The contingent of American forces reached 148,000 in May 2003, two months after the invasion of Iraq.

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, Washington 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
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