As the Western press reported on the Jan. 30 election results in celebratory tones, skeptical voices made themselves heard in Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq itself, Libération (Paris) reported Monday....


By G.T. with wire services

** Turkey, concerned about the Kurds' push, casts doubt on the integrity of the vote; Egypt poses questions about U.S. strategy **

February 14, 2005

On the sidelines of the traditional waves to the "new step forward in the political transition" (European Commission) or the hopes linked to the advent of a "democratic" Iraq (Japan), the results of the Iraqi elections of January 30, consecrating the victory of Ayatollah Ali Sistani's Shiites, have evoked reserves, doubts, and even anxieties in some countries.

Thus neighboring Turkey noted that the elections had not produced a truly representative assembly because of the low turnout and the manipulation that occurred, according to Ankara, in some regions. Turkish authorities seem particularly preoccupied with the strong results of the Kurdish parties' alliance, which, with 25.7% of the vote, finished second in the election, just after Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance, and ahead of the list supported by the pro-American interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. Ankara also regrets the weak turnout by the Turkomens, a Turkophone minority of Iraq, in the city of Kirkuk, where Kurds won nearly 59% of the vote for the provincial council. "The low vote turnout in some communities, the absence of a vote in a series of provinces, and manipulations in the conduct of the vote in some sectors, including Kirkuk, have created an imbalance in the results," the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs said Sunday evening. The Turkish government fears that the Kurds are seeking to make sure of their control of Kirkuk (800,000 inhabitants) in anticipation of proclaiming an independent Kurdish state in the north of Iraq. This could, according to Ankara, revive the flame of separatism among Kurds in southeastern Turkey.

In Egypt on Monday, government-controlled newspapers were wondering about Washington's ability to cope with the consequences of the Shiites' victory, which according to them risks bringing to power an Islamic government allied to Iran. "Has the United States taken all this trouble (to invade Iraq) so that a government supported and blessed by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani may emerge?" asks the editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Gomhuriya. "With their Iranian brothers, the Shiites will form an even more significant force in the Gulf region, which is in total contradiction to the interests of the United States," he says. What's more, Ali Sistani, who was the godfather of the list that won the legislative elections, is of Iranian origin and does not have Iraqi nationality. He moved to Najaf in 1952, the holy Shiite city south of Baghdad.

According to Al-Gomhuriya, the marginalization of the Sunnis, who stayed away from the polling places, and the need for an alliance between Shiites and Kurds prove that Washington has "failed to create the political atmosphere necessary for the establishment of a stable state with the strength to stand up to ethnic or sectarian struggles." For its part, the editorialist of the government paper Al-Ahram thinks that the Shiite victory "sends the United States back to place it began. The place the West finds terrifying and that it considers the seedbed of terrorism: sharia (Islamic law)."

In Iraq itself, even as the Iraqi papers hailed on Monday the announcement of the results of the first democratic elections in Iraq since 1953, they wondered about the political process that will follow and that the alliances that will be formed in the National Assembly. "The difficult situation requires a strong power in the hands of a courageous leader . . . so he can put Iraq on the path to stability and development," says the daily Baghdad, which is close to Iyad Allawi, the incumbent prime minister. Al-Mashriq, which belongs to the losing Sunni candidate Nehru Abdelkarim, fears a splintering of the population. "Whatever the result of the elections, the fear is not due to the number of seats that this or that party won -- rather, the fear, all the fear is that the equilibrium be upset," he says.

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
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