February 13, 2005

Where Florida Meets Najaf

I'm still trying to figure out what the voting results for the Iraqi government will portend. The unified Shi'ite list didn't do as well as expected, and they either got a bare majority or just under (it depends on how the proportions of votes translates into actual seats). So not bad: anything that forces the Sistani juggernaut to compromise with the other political coalitions could be a good thing, depending on how it shakes out.

But before we start speculating about What This All Means, let's not ignore the potential elephant honking around the room here—allegations of voter fraud. Here's a tidbit buried in tomorrow's Washington Post story:
Given the backing of Sistani, whose writ carries the force of law among many devout Shiites, leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance had expected to win as much as 60 percent of the vote. Under a complicated formula for the allotment of seats, the alliance may still command a slim majority in parliament, but some of its officials said they were disappointed with their strong plurality. Some privately suggested that they suspected foul play and planned to question the commission on the specific results Monday.
Um, "disappointed"? Do elaborate. And I worry only because there weren't many election monitors watching over the voting, and fierce allegations could cause quite the ruckus. But, as in last year's U.S. election, it's also unlikely that they'll find enough discrepancies to alter the results in any significant way. So maybe it's not a big deal. Note that now it should also be much harder for Sistani and the fundamentalist Shi'ites ever to reject the U.S.-imposed interim constitution as "illegitimate" after not even winning a majority (and the Kurds love the TAL since it gives them disproportionate power). Good news, I think—though one can also be worried about utter gridlock in the constitutional process, which could create its own problems.
-- Brad Plumer 11:13 PM || ||