Thursday, April 29, 2010

From "Homage To Catalonia" to "1984"

This photo is from the fine web-site of Poumista. It is taken in a Surveillence Zone in the Municipality of Barcelona. Anyone unaware of the significance of the photo should turn immediately to "Homage to Calalonia" et al and "1984".

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Electoral Confusion

Seven weeks after Iraqis went to the polls, a special election court has disqualified both a winning parliamentary candidate from the Alawi bloc and 51 other losing candidates. All of these have had their votes discarded. If the decision is upheld this will require a recalculation of the votes and the possibility of reversing the narrow defeat of Prime Minister Maliki’s alliance by Alawi's bloc. This could give Maliki the first chance to form a new coalition government.

See this report in the New York Times.

UPDATE 28 APRIL : There is today fine coverage of the situation by "Musing On Iraq" who is worth following on a regular basis.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Manifestos

Access the Manifestos of the three main parties here - Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem.

UPDATE 21 APRIL : The above Manifestos are due to be on sale at Waterstones. I understand that they will be £5 each and Waterstones will sell them as a 3 for 2 deal. But check by phone or email with your local branch first to see if and when they will be available.

They will have a short shelf life. Not only do Political Parties often deviate from manifesto commitments after General Elections, but should we get a hung parliament no proposal will be able to progress which can't find a majority in the new parliament. But they may prove useful for those who are into holding inner-party inquests after the election.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Electoral Confusion - Iraqi Style

The Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has been successful over his challenge to the Iraqi Election Results which had given Allawi's Iraqi National Movement a lead of two seats over his own State of Law Coalition. The votes were initially counted electronically, but now the Iraqi Electoral Commission have ordered a manual recount of votes that were cast in Baghdad which was an area of Maliki's strength. No recounts are to take place in the other regions of Iraq.

There are also claims that up to $4 million of counterfeit US currency was used in the run up to the election. The finger is pointed at Iran, with the money being seen as being used to aid the Islamic Supreme Conference and the Sadrists who (in competition with Prime Minister Maliki) combined to take 70 seats from the votes they obtained in mainly Shia territory.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Defend Iraq's Oil Workers


Take action to stop harassment of Iraq oil workers!

After weeks of industrial action in the southern oil fields in Iraq, management are trying to undermine the Refinery Workers Union by sending four of its leaders to other workplaces. This is a standard management tactic in Iraq, and in the past has often meant sending union leaders to more hostile, violent areas of the country. But pressure from Iraqi trade unionists and trade unionists around the world has stopped this before, and we can do it again.

Sign the LabourStart appeal demanding that the Iraqi Oil Minister rescind the transfer orders and support the call for an ILO-compliant labour law in Iraq.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Still Needed - A Full Franchise

The Electoral Commission estimates that some 3.5 million people who are eligible to vote are missing from electoral registers. That is almost 7% of the potential electorate. It is just assumed by many that we long since achieved a full franchise, but this has been in serious decline for a considerable period as we became a more mobile and, in many cases, a highly rootless society. There has also been a falling away of interest in Party politics, so registration although a legal obligation is low down in the priorities of many. The numbers missing from electoral registers are highest amongst those living in bed-sitter land, the homeless, the poor, ethnic minorities and the young.

Non-registration is a serious undermining of the franchise and means that in an average parliamentary constituency there are some 5,400 missing voters. But because the spread of non-registration is much higher in urban conurbations, there is also a serious distortion of the drawing of constituency boundaries.

Until the 20 April there is a brief opportunity for those who aren't yet registered to correct this. The avenues for doing this can be found here and here. This is only likely, however, to place a small proportion of the missing 3.5 million onto registers.

At one time it would not even have been possible for people to have qualified for late electoral registration. For the deadline for registration was set for a date in October, with the registers not coming into operation until the following February. This wasn't altered until 2000 when what was known as "rolling registration" first came into operation based on a number of unsuccessful Private Members Bill I introduced into the Commons from 1993 onwards. The "rolling register" principle was extended during the parliament which has just ended, allowing registration as late as 11 days before a General Election.

But much more needs to be done. We need extra facilities for Electoral Returning Officers so they can trace the movements of those entitled to vote and exchange information as people move to new electoral areas. With the use of computer technology in an information-packed world this can easily be done. Then Electoral Returning Officers need the type of investigative avenues I pressed for in the 1990s. They are contained in the Bills I introduced, although advances in technology over the past decade are needed to update my proposals. Then Electoral Returning Officers need to be given the duty (and the resources) to canvass the public in order to ensure the fullest franchise that is possible.

Even under the current arrangements, the polling cards should have been posted to voters by now. With publicity, this would have shown those who did not receive a card that something might be wrong. They would then have 11 days left to ensure their registration.

For other franchise problems see my earlier analysis - although I underestimated the number of those not registered.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Al Sadr and Iraq's Hung Parliament

The Iraqi Parliament when in Session.
It is claimed that 1.4 million people voted in the unofficial referendum in Iraq which was organised by Al Sadr's Bloc to determine who to support as Prime Minister. Yet this would mean an average of 333,333 voters for what were claimed to be 42 polling centres. Furthermore some 32% of those who voted opted for candidates other than those presented to them on the ballot paper. They made use of a write-in facility. The results are given below. INA stands for the Iraqi National Alliance which won 70 seats in the official election, 39 or 40 of whom belong to Al Sadr's Bloc.

24% Ibramhim al-Jaafari (INA) Prime Minister April 2005 to May 2006
23% Jaffar Mohammad al-Sadr (State of Law) Dawa Party Leader
17% Qusay al-Suhail (INA and Al Sadr's Bloc) *
10% Nouri al-Maliki (State of Law) The current Prime Minister
9% Ayad Allawi (Iraqiya) Interim Prime Minister May 2004 to 2005
5% Baha Araji (INA and Al Sadr's Bloc) *
3% Ahmed Chalabi (INA) President Governing Council 2003-4 *
2% Adel Abdulmahdi (INA) A current Vice-President
2% Rafia al-Issawi (Iraqiya) A current Deputy Prime Minister *

* = a write-in. The total for other write-ins with lower individual percentages than the above was 5%.

In the official election, the result was Iraqiya 91, State of Law 89, INA 70, Kurdish Alliance 43 and others (no group with more than 8 seats) a total of 32.

Here is an analysis of the above situation. Also see here and here.

UPDATE 9 APRIL. Here is a fine analysis of the result.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Muqtada al-Sadr's Initiative - Plus Updates

Muqtada al-Sadr (left) the Shia cleric has been especially hostile to the Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki ever since the Iraqi Government took military action to overcome much of the influence of his Mahdi Army from March 2008.

The Shia cleric also has little love for Malaki's main rival in the recent Iraqi Election - Allawi. For Allawi leads a secular grouping which has attracted wide Sunni support

Yet al-Sadr is always willing to take initiatives in Iraq to advance his own corner. The 39 seats his group obtained in the election gives him a bargaining chip he is using to the full.

Over yesterday and today Al-Sadr is running an unofficial referendum from 42 centres in Shia territory to determine who his group of 39 should support for the position of Prime Minister. All Iraqi's around the centres can vote (as below) They can choose from amongst 5 candidates or write in any other choice.

A further advantage of an unofficial referendum is that it has no international observers or official checks to look out for fraud.

Here are the five candidates on al-Sadr's ballot papers. All are Shia and none are Kurds -

1. Maliki the existing Prime Minister whose State of the Law Coalition won 89 seats.

2. Allawi appointed interim Prime Minister May 2004. This time, his list the Iraqi National Movement won 91 seats. But there are legal moves to ban six of those elected.

3. al-Jaafari Prime Minister April 2005 until May 2006. He is Chairman of the Iraqi National Alliance who took 70 seats. Yet his National Reform Trend itself only gained one seat - his own. Muqtada's Group of 39 are also part of this Alliance. al-Jaafari was expelled from the Dawa Party in 2008 for setting up his current Party.

4. Jaafar al-Sadr of the Dawa Party ran on Maliki's ticket with the State of the Law Coalition . He is the son of Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, a leading Ayatollah executed by Saddam Hussain who was also the father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr.

5. Adil Abdul-Mahdi Vice-President of Iraq and with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq who are on the list of the National Iraqi Alliance.

75 seats are held by groups outside those mentioned above.

See Patrick Cockburn on this issue in the Independent. He is the author of "Muqtada Al-Sadr and The Fall Of Iraq" (Faber and Faber, 2008).

UPDATE 5 APRIL - see how Allawi is between a rock and a hard place.

UPDATE 7 APRIL - Jaafar al-Sadr (number 3 above and photo) is reported to have come top in Al-Sadr's unofficial referendum with 24% of the votes. It must have been close because there were 5 candidates, except that write-ins were also allowed.