First, the Sunnis:
Iraq’s top Sunni Muslim party said Monday it was withdrawing from Jan. 30 elections because relentless bloodshed would keep people from voting in the long dominant Sunni north and west.
“The Iraqi Islamic Party is withdrawing from the elections because we do not think the situation will improve in the next few weeks to give conditions for credible elections,” party Secretary-General Tareq al-Hashimi said.
Persistent violence in Sunni Arab cities, most of which are under curfew, has raised fears that voters there will be too intimidated to cast their ballots, skewing the poll in favor of Iraq’s 60-percent Shi’ite Muslim majority.
The Islamic Party’s list of 275 candidates would still appear on ballot papers which were already being printed, a spokesman for Iraq’s Electoral Commission told Reuters.
Farid Ayar said the Commission had received no formal request for withdrawal, but if it does, any votes cast for the Iraqi Islamic Party would be considered “invalid.”
The leading mainstream Sunni religious party, along with at least 16 other Sunni and secular parties, had threatened to boycott the poll unless it was postponed by up to six months to ensure that voters across the country could take part.
But most, including the Islamic Party itself, later fielded lists of candidates for the poll to elect a 275-seat National Assembly that will draft a constitution and appoint a cabinet.
Counter this with Secretary Powell:
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the transitional Iraqi government to be set up after next month’s elections will have to “find a way” to assure that Sunni Muslims are fairly represented. U.S. officials are concerned that the insurgency and a poor turnout by Sunnis could largely exclude them from a new national assembly.
Mr. Powell says there is no provision in Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law for handing Sunnis seats in the new national assembly that they don’t win in the January 30 election.
But he is making clear the Bush administration’s view that Sunnis should have an adequate role in the new government that will be chosen by the assembly.
At a news conference here, Mr. Powell said the law provides only for the direct election of legislators, but that the government they choose should reflect the religious and ethnic makeup of the country:
“I think that for the government to be representative, and for the government to be effective, the transitional national assembly would certainly have to take into account the ethnic mix of the country, and find a way to make sure that all segments of the country believe that they are playing a proper role in the government. That’s the way the Iraqi Interim Government was formed and the current ministries operate, and it would seem to me to be sensible for the transitional government to do the same thing,” Mr. Powell says.
Iraq’s Shiites, who make up about 60 per cent of the population and were largely denied power under Saddam Hussein, are energetically campaigning in the elections.
Mr. Powell said having the election as scheduled January 30, with maximum participation, is essential. He said the United States is encouraging Sunnis to join in the effort, and to, in his words, “say no to terrorism, no to murder, and yes to democracy.”
He said as part of that effort, the United States is talking to other Arab governments, urging them to encourage Iraqi Sunni leaders to turn out the vote.
And then there’s the sonofabitch bin Laden:
Terror chief Osama Bin Laden has made a blatant bid to destroy Iraqâ€™s elections.
In a chilling audiotape broadcast yesterday, the al-Qaeda leader urged all Iraqi Muslims to boycott the poll on January 30.
Bin Laden also said he was PLEASED with the “gallant work” of evil terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the man responsible for beheading 62-year-old British hostage Ken Bigley.
The tape was aired by Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera and the voice seemed to be Bin Ladenâ€™s.
He tells Iraqis: “This constitution is infidel and therefore everyone who participates in this election will be considered infidels.
“Beware of henchmen who speak in the name of Islamic parties and urge people to participate in the election.”
Bin Laden goes on to describe al-Zarqawi as the “emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq” and urges Muslims there “to listen to him”.
Jordanian al-Zarqawi and his henchmen are responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages.
If Osama’s recent releases are anything to judge by, there are two things he is concerned for — his life and his movement. These concerns are driven by two fears, and those are President Bush and progress towards a return to civilization by the world of Islam. He tried but failed to sway the U.S. to reject Bush, and now he is working to persuade the Iraqi people to reject democracy. Osama knows all too well that a free and prosperous society, even in a Moslem nation, will not willingly turn back the clock the centuries his beliefs require. Instead, such a society could potentially shine like the Lighthouse of Alexandria to the surrounding peoples. This could be more of an end of Osama than his death ever could be.