The electoral campaigns are heating up in Iraq and the elections are occupying greater portion of the Iraqis' thinking.
Many people keep asking me about how broad is the Iraqis' interest in the elections? What's the expected percentage of participation in the upcoming elections? As the vision for the world regarding these issues is still blurred, so I'd like to clarify few related points:
First of all, lots of people and parties try to speak on behalf of Iraqis and I tell them "we're capable of expressing ourselves and no one can play this role other than Iraqis themselves".
The situation here indicates that a great percentage of Iraqis are WITH the elections and are looking forward to participate in the process and truly I don't know why the media insists on showing the voices that oppose the elections that represent parties swimming against the majority's current and chose violence and terror as a way to deal with the people and this is a striking evidence for their failure because if they were representing the general will of the people we would've seen peaceful activities in which the sons of Iraq take part, the thing that didn't happen because Iraqis are certain that the elections fall into the interest of the whole population (except of course for the terrorists and the remnants of the dead regime).
Iraqis' response to terror was so clear; after the terrorists, or the so called insurgents threatened to slaughter anyone who participates in the elections, 7200 Iraqis rushed to announce their candidacy. YES, 7200 Iraqis representing more than 200 different political parties and I believe this makes the image clearer for the viewer.
And to remove the fog and debunk the claims about the Sunni population being against the democratic process, I want to point out that tens of the political parties come from the Sunni population. Moreover you almost can't find a single list that lacks Sunni candidates in it, even lists from She'at, Kurdis, Christian or liberal parties.
Iraq is bigger than the small tension spots that you hear about from the news. If you take a look at the map you'll find that 13 provinces are enjoying peace and almost a normal life while people in the remaining 5 provinces are also practicing a normal life in wide regions of these provinces. The troubles and the poor security situation are localized to certain regions in the cities and some suburbs around the cities.
That's why we must not impose one fact over the whole larger story.
I've traveled in the past week in several cities in the north, south and middle of Iraq and the common finding in the streets was tons of elections' posters encouraging people to join the elections and in some cases advertising for the policies of the competing political parties.
The beautiful thing is that everyone has absorbed the process of peaceful and civilized competition; words and conferences are the weapons in this competition.
The escalation in terror attacks couldn't break the determination of the people to move on towards their goals. There's a common feeling that elections will be a success and will be a good step in improving the security situation although people realize that these attacks won't cease to occur soon after the elections.
The primary goal for terrorism now is to hinder the democratic process and to stop as many people as they can from giving their votes. That's why accomplishing the task will deny the terrorists their weapons which is the claim that the government doesn't represent the people and I think that they will accuse the elections of being unfair or illegal because they were done under "occupation".
However this isn't going to convince the people because when that time comes the people will see the fact that they were the ones who chose the representatives and not someone from outside.
I'd like to say again that the activities and the events filling the streets and the conferences and seminars held everywhere even in the most remote villages send a clear message saying that Iraqis do want to change and they want to participate in pushing the process forwards until the authorities are democratically elected.
During my last visit to the south I met many ordinary people, journalists and people from NGO's and I got a confirmation that Ayatollah Sistani didn't bless any particular list of candidates.
I've seen many posters with slogans like "vote for the list blessed by the Hawza" being taken down by people from the SCIRI after a short time from posting them as the people began to question the credibility of the statements on such posters. When I asked one of the local officials from the SCIRI about that he said "the Ayatollah blessed this list" and when I asked for a proof for that he said that they don't have a proof and added "we know that Ayatollah wants to see people vote for this list and then I asked "is there a written fatwa about that?" the answer was "no, but it's an internal discussion among the members of the list".
Everyone I asked said that Sistani blessed all the lists through a written fatwa that I read and it was calling the people to vote for the best choice regardless of religion or ethnicity.
The most interesting phenomenon that caught my attention was that the majority of the parties are trying to make their lists include elements from all the segments of the Iraqi population. Even the lists of the religious parties included technocrats and liberals and all the lists tried to include Arabs, Kurds, Muslims (Sunni and She'at), Turkmen, Christians and even people from the Yazeedi and Subbi minorities.
This clearly says that everyone is trying to please the people and their wish to have an Iraqi list that is not limited to a certain religion or ethnic group.
For the first time we see the politicians trying to please the people, not enforce their word on the people.
And this indicates also that everyone realizes that the list has got to be IRAQI and this is what Iraqis want. You will not find a single list that represents only one segment because people know that such a list would definitely lose.
One last thing, two posters drew my attention and brought delight to my heart and that was in the south:
"Take the hands of your disabled and your elders and help them vote"
"No to forgiveness checks and false promises. Yes to a vision of reality"