Iraqi Elections

Jerome picked this election correctly. With the vote now counted but not certified, fundamentalist Muslims under Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have comfortably won the Iraqi elections: Iraq's majority Shiite Muslims won nearly half the votes in the nation's landmark Jan. 30 election, giving the long-oppressed group significant power but not enough to form a government on its own, according to results released Sunday.

The Shiites likely will have to form a coalition in the 275-member National Assembly with the other top vote-getters -- the Kurds and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's list -- to push through their agenda and select a president and prime minister. The president and two vice presidents must be elected by a two-thirds majority.(...)

Minority Sunni groups, which largely boycotted voting booths and form the core of the insurgency, rejected the election -- raising the prospect of continued violence as Iraqis try to rebuild their country. (..)

The Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance ticket received 4,075,295 votes, or about 48 percent of the total cast, Iraqi election officials said. The Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of two main Kurdish factions, was second with 2,175,551 votes, or 26 percent, and the Iraqi List headed by the U.S.-backed Allawi finished third with 1,168,943 votes, or about 14 percent.

Unfortunately, it is not too surprising that vote spoilage in the Iraqi elections was actually lower than in American elections: Of Iraq's 14 million eligible voters, 8,550,571 cast ballots for 111 candidate lists, the commission said. About 94,305 were declared invalid. That comes out to about 1.1% vote spoilage. This compares quite favorably to American elections, where in 2000 1.8% of all ballots were spoiled (1.9 million spoiled, with 105.4 million counted) and 2004 in Ohio, where 1.6% of all ballots were spoiled (93,000 spoiled, with 5.63 million counted).

In another affront to American democracy, despite the boycott and very real threat of violence, turnout in Iraq among eligible voters (58%) was almost as high as it was in American in 2004, when 60% of eligible voters cast ballots.

A primer on UK politics

I was going to write this as comment responding to someone below, but realized it was going to be a very long comment because I was going to go back to the 19th century to explain British politics and why it is very difficult and not really appropriate to make direct analogies with the US system.

To start, in the 19th century when British popular politics began, the Conservative party tended to represent aristocrats, rural communities, and the Anglican Church and was in favor of "national greatness" through empire, the monarchy, the military, and the "established" (Anglican) church. The Tories (as they are often called) were in favor of protectionism to buttress domestic agricultural and the idealized, hierarchical vision of Britain the rural order allegedly represented. To this day, many of themes still echo and are relevant to the Conservative party, especially its strength of support in rural Britain and a lingering sense of aristocratic "noblesse oblige" to the "less fortunate" that mean it is not a dogmatic capitalist party like the GOP, or at least to the extent the GOP is.

In contrast, the Liberal Party tended to represent the bourgeoisie of rising industrialists in cities like Manchester, the middle class (both small entrepreneurs and professionals), and more or less, the working classes as they became gradually enfranchised. The Liberals were in favor of free trade, the dimunition of the established churches priveleges, minimal government spending (including on the military) and the abolition of aristocratic and historical privelege. As to why the working classes generally supported this platform through the course of the 19th century is a very interesting question that is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice to say that the working class saw government intervention as antithetical to their interests because of the view (with good reason) that government intervention in the working of British society tended to favor those with economic and historic power. Also, many in the working classes were members of "nonconformist" religions, meaning Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, etc., who were for much of the 19th century excluded in important ways in British society at the expense of the established Anglican church. As a final note, the Liberals - especially under the leadership of William Gladstone - were in favor of Irish "home rule" (or defacto independence) while the Conservatives were not. This issue was critical in breaking Liberal dominance of British politics in the late 19th century.

The 20th century has seen great changes to this original order. With the increasing urbanization and industrialization of British society, and especially with the rise of trade  unions, the Labour Party came to prominence int he early part of the 20th century (it had formed around the turn of the century). With this development, the Liberal middle/working class coalition broke apart, as the Conservatives were able to succesfully reposition themselves as defenders of middle class interests against the specter of the Labour Party's alleged socialism and trade union militance. Although it was a more complicated process than I am suggesting (that involved key splits in its leadership - particularly during World War I) the Liberal Party was squeezed in the middle by this realignment of British politics along class lines, and had effectively become a minor party by the 1920s. It is of crucial importance to note the fundamental class basis of British politics that developed at this time. For all intents and purposes, Labour was (or at least perceived as) a working class party, and this continues to be a major reason why it is mistake to compare the Labour Party to the Democrats (too closely, at least).

There's more...

UK Election: Status Quo Holding

With three months to go, not much seems to be changing in the UK, according to the two most recent polls. First, The Observer:Eight or nine weeks from now, we will be in the thick of the election. MORI's latest findings show a six-point lead for Labour over the Tories - 38 per cent to 32 per cent - with the Liberal Democrats on 22 per cent, not remotely within striking distance of dislodging the Conservatives as the official Opposition.

A month ago, the Lib Dems were on 26 per cent, with some pundits hinting at a breakthrough that now looks highly unlikely.

Based on these figures - a 1.7 per cent swing from Labour to the Conservatives - Labour would lose between 25 and 30 seats, with the Tories gaining fewer than 10 and the Lib Dems picking up a handful That would give Labour a third landslide and a majority of between 120 and 130.

The Guardian shows much of the same:The January Guardian/ICM survey shows that Labour's poll position has slipped two points in the last month from 40% to 38%. Tony Blair's party retains a seven-point lead over the Conservatives who are unchanged on 31% - enough to deliver a Commons majority of 140 in a general election later this year. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 21% and other parties up two points to 9%.

Mr Blair's own poll rating as prime minster remains in negative territory at minus 12 points, with 38% happy with the job he is doing in Downing Street compared with 50% who are not.

The prime minister has consolidated the improvement in his personal ratings in the past few months. Between February and July last year his ratings slumped to between minus 20 and minus 24 points.

Mr Blair is actually in a better position now than Margaret Thatcher was in January 1987 as she also prepared to fight a third term general election. Then her personal rating stood at minus 26 points yet she still won a handsome third-term victory.

Labour and Tory leaders both seem disliked, but the Liberal Democrats still seem unable to move up. Considering this, I'd like to make my own prediction: very low turnout.

al-Sistani on brink of winning Iraqi elections

Shocker:U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was trailing a Shiite ticket with ties to Iran in Iraq (news - web sites)'s historic election, according to partial returns released Friday. One U.S. soldier was killed and seven wounded in the north, and gunmen seized an Italian journalist in Baghdad.

The United Iraqi Alliance, endorsed by Iraq's top Shiite clerics, captured more than two-thirds of the 3.3 million votes counted so far, the election commission said. The ticket headed by Allawi, a secular Shiite, had about 18 percent -- or more than 579,700 votes.

Those latest partial figures from Sunday's contest for 275 National Assembly seats came from 10 of Iraq's 18 provinces, said Hamdiyah al-Husseini, an election commission official. All 10 provinces have heavy Shiite populations, and the Alliance had been expected to do well there. So far, 45 percent of the vote has been counted in Baghdad, with varying percentages tallied in the other nine provinces.

Nevertheless, the huge lead that the Shiites were rolling up among their core constituency in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq pointed to the likelihood of a tremendous victory, enabling the majority community to claim power long denied it by the Sunni Arab minority.

Don't forget to take the MyDD poll on the Iraqi elections.

Iraqi Elections Thread

I was remiss in my blogging duties today, but I proomoted a few dairies below. I'll be back tomorrow. For now, use this thread to talk about the Iraqi elections.

It already sounds pretty rough.


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