21 February 2004

No polls, but Iraq gets sovereignty - and troops

Bremer also said the Iraqi constitution should acknowledge the Islamic nature of Iraq, but stressed that it not be based solely on sharia, or Islamic law. Instead, he said it should be founded on secular principles that guarantee rights recognized in liberal democracies.

'We said we seek a representative and sovereign Iraqi government. That government should be bound by a transitional administrative law that protects fundamental rights and provides a stable political structure. Under that law, Iraqis will enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom of religious belief and practice,' he said.

UN diplomats say that Brahimi favors a relatively short period between the handover of power and elections, with nationwide balloting possibly late this year.

Asia Times Online reports that serious political horse-trading is now likely to begin: already many of the 25 US-appointed members of Iraq's Governing Council have begun making bids to assume sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Other stakeholders, including Sistani and the country's Shi'ites, who make up 60 percent of the population, Sunnis, long accustomed to power, and Kurds, hankering after self-rule in the north, will certainly also have something to say.

The US, the UN and Iraqi leaders have just four months to work out how all these groups can be accommodated into an administration which Iraqis will feel deserving of receiving the gift of 'sovereignty'.

The thing is that the new sovereignty without elections plan is just as silly as the previous sovereignty without elections plan. Only by the longest stretch could the caucus plan ever be called an election, although Jack Straw among others tried. Now apparently the idea is for the CPA to transfer power to its own appointees, exactly as under the caucus plan. Will the new government, however appointed, be sovereign enough to ask the US to leave?

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