Iraq Election Aftermath
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RAY SUAREZ: Next, a post-election update from Iraq. It comes from Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, who’s in Baghdad. I talked with him by telephone earlier this evening.
RAY SUAREZ: Borzou Daragahi, welcome. Out of Iraq today came word that a large extended family had been killed south of Baghdad. What have you been able to find out about that?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Well, apparently there was a guy who was a truck driver, and he went to visit some of his relatives in a town south of Baghdad. And he found that it was about a dozen of them; they’d all been killed. And quite shocked he loaded them into his truck and started taking them to a hospital. He was stopped by authorities who when they found out his — his tale, they helped him take these people to a nearby hospital, these bodies — and it was a Shiite family who had been warned earlier by Sunni insurgents in the area to get out. Apparently they had taken some moves to try to placate the insurgents but apparently not enough.
RAY SUAREZ: This terrible crime comes at a time when the government is trying to head off inter-communal violence, doesn’t it?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Absolutely. There is a real attempt by the political leadership to kind of stop this kind of thing from happening. It’s quite destabilizing, especially at a time of increasing tensions over the recent election. They were apparently won by the Shiites and Kurds; the angry Sunni Arab minority has gotten even angrier so this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
RAY SUAREZ: The Kurds and the Shiites are having meetings this week to try to hammer out a post-election government. What’s the state of play in that realm?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Abdul Aziz-Hakim who’s the top candidate on the Shiite list, is up in Irbil in the Kurdish city, and another Kurdish city called Zukon meeting with the Kurdish leaders. We are not privy to the exact details of their conversations.
From what I understand there is an attempt to placate the Kurds on the issue of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is the oil rich city that the Kurds covet as part of their own autonomous region. And there are some accusations that the Shiites in the year they have been in power haven’t done enough to bring Kirkuk back to the Kurds. And there is quite informed speculation that that was the purpose of this trip, to placate the Kurds on that issue.
RAY SUAREZ: Have there also been rumors that the Sunni Arabs might be sort of cut a break in the division of power in this new constitutional dispensation by sort of overstating their vote or overstating the number of seats that they get in response to the vote?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: There has been some talk of that. But I don’t think there is any legal mechanism for giving them additional seats in the parliament. What they can do is to give them certain plum ministries, give the Sunnis key ministries such as defense.
Now the Sunnis will probably want the interior ministry which has been a source of trouble for the Sunni Arab community. They accuse Iraqi cops of acting as death squads and, you know, coming to their homes and taking them in the middle of the night and killing them, but they probably won’t get the interior ministry. But I’m fairly certain that there will be a move to try to put a Sunni at the helm of the defense ministry.
RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile have the Sunnis continued to cast doubt on the results of the election?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yes, Sunnis, as well as secular Iraqis, are quite shocked by the results of the election. They came out in full force this time. Turnout was, you know, really high in certain parts, certain Sunni Arab parts of the country. And despite that, they only managed to get about 20 percent of the vote.
Sunni Arabs have always thought of themselves as, you know, a majority or a near majority in the country. And they are quite shocked to discover that they weren’t. They allege ballot fraud and all sorts of other allegations of fraud.
RAY SUAREZ: Late today word appeared on the wires from Iraq that a body called the International Mission for Iraqi Elections will be reviewing the results. What do you know about that?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Could just be a face-saving maneuver to let the Shiite — the secular Shiites and the Sunnis bow out of their complaints in a graceful way and sort of accept the results of the election. But it could also just be one last attempt to placate the Sunnis and the secular Shiites by bringing in this international body to take one last look at the elections.
RAY SUAREZ: At the same time as you got this offer for review of the vote, you got a ringing endorsement from the United Nations. Is that unusual?
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Normally, the U.N. does not come out with such a strong statement in support of an election as it did in this one. I think there was a little bit of concern on the part of the officials because the tone of the rhetoric and the tone of the attack on the elections are were such that they were causing problems for some of the election officials.
They were saying that they were being threatened and they were being accused of all sorts of nefarious deeds. And the election officials themselves were quite scared. So the U.N. came out and gave this endorsement.
RAY SUAREZ: They also seem to want to slam the door on any talk of rerunning the balloting — the U.N. official was quoted as saying we see no justification for any rerun of any election.
BORZOU DARAGAHI: Yes, I think that is definitely what they have been saying. What they say is that there was about one complaint for every seven thousand votes. And that’s pretty normal, apparently it’s not that abnormal in an election of this type.
But on the other hand, there were some pretty serious allegations in this election including, for example, in the southern city of Nasaria where, you know, the headquarters of the Communist Party and the headquarters of another secular party were burned down on Election Day.
And there has been no investigation of that. We still don’t know what happened with that. So that’s not exactly a light election violation.
RAY SUAREZ: Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times, thanks for being with us.
BORZOU DARAGAHI: It’s always a pleasure. Thank you.