Thursday, 12 November 2009

Iraqi CP: Unjust amendments to election law are real threat to democracy

Iraqi Communist Party: Unjust amendments to the election law
are real threat to democracy

The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party issued a statement on 10th November 2009, exposing the unjust amendments to the election law that the Iraqi Parliament had passed a day earlier. The endorsement of the election law "and the grave measures it includes, constitute a fundamental retreat from democracy in our country and a real threat to its future," the statement said. The party called on the Presidency of the Republic, which is in charge of ensuring adherence to the Constitution, to overturn articles 1 and 3 of the election law that was approved on 9th November 2009, and send them back to the Parliament to be amended so that the law is truly democratic.

The amendments to the law, passed by the Parliament after weeks of bickering among influential and dominant blocs, may have averted the consequences of postponing the elections (originally scheduled for 16th January 2010), and endorsed the "open list" system. But the party statement warned against the grave consequences of these totally undemocratic amendments and the gross violation of the rights of the Iraqi electorate.

"It seems as if the noisy verbal battles that accompanied the haggling during the past few weeks about linking the issue of Kirkuk to the election law were fabricated to cover up passing the above-mentioned measures with the votes of the MPs of dominant blocs, who were mobilized for the vote in an unprecedented manner."

"The Parliament, in the first article of the law, cut down the number of compensatory seats, originally allocated to the lists that do not meet the electoral threshold at the provincial level but achieve it at the national level, from 45 in the original law to about 15 seats! And when we know that part of these seats will be allocated to quotas for some of the ethnic and religious minorities (8 seats), and for the deputies who would be elected by Iraqis living abroad who constitute more than 10 percent of Iraq's population, we can see how this reduction is arbitrary and irresponsible. The seven or eight remaining seats will not be enough to cover even the votes abroad."
"On the other hand, this reduction (of the number of compensatory seats) effectively usurps the right of the lists that achieve the national electoral threshold to gain representation in Parliament. This reveals the selfishness of most of the dominant blocs and their disregard of plurality and diversity in the Parliament, their quest to extend full control over Parliament and the whole of political power, monopolizing and carving it up among themselves, in contravention of democratic norms."

"In Article 3 of the law, the big parliamentary blocs went much further in violating democracy and displaying blatant disregard for the voters. They have imposed, once again, giving the vacant seats to the top winning lists, rather than putting them - as obligated by democracy, logic and justice - at the disposal of the lists that attain the highest remaining votes. They have thus opened the door again to a repetition of the infamous experience in the provincial elections earlier this year, when the big blocs stole the votes of more than two and a quarter million people who had given their votes to other lists. This was used by those big blocs to grab additional seats in the provincial councils."

"What arouses astonishment and indignation is that the dominant blocs are repeating the same behaviour (as in the provincial elections), despite all the manifestations of popular rejection, protests and condemnation, which such anti-democratic practice had met at the time. It is clear that they are doing the same thing today despite being fully aware that it contradicts the principles of the Constitution as well. They also do so in a predetermined manner and in defiance of the voters and their will, and of their constitutional right to choose whom they want to represent them in Parliament and other elected bodies."

"The measures taken by the big blocs yesterday (9th November 2009) is a very serious phenomenon in the political and constitutional experience in our country, a heavy blow to the fledgling democracy, and an outright retreat from its course.

"This development runs against the expectation of national public opinion, which had been looking forward to a serious and positive move to rectify the deficiencies in the electoral law that had been in force until yesterday, in order to make it a democratic law that ensures wider participation of our people, especially the youth, a better embodiment of the principle of citizenship and the consolidation of national unity.

"It is our duty to warn against the immediate consequences of all this for the upcoming elections. It is well-known that the credibility of these elections could face a severe challenge due to the reluctance of a large proportion of voters, who are frustrated as a result of the policies of powerful blocs themselves, to go the ballot box. This probability is increasing today because the new law stipulates giving the vacant seats to the winning lists. The supporters of the other lists are wondering, and they are right to do so, what would be the point of their participation in the elections as long as their votes will go in the end, against their will, to the winning lists that they reject and do not want in any way to endorse."

"For this reason too, as well as the points mentioned earlier, we call on the Presidency of the Republic, which is in charge of ensuring adherence to the Constitution, to overturn articles 1 and 3 of the election law that was approved yesterday, and to send them back to the Parliament in order to reconsider them and ensure they are grounded in a proper democratic context."

"We also call upon the masses of our people and public opinion, civil society organizations and all those concerned for democracy and its future in Iraq, to reject the afore-mentioned articles and press for amending them so that law will be truly democratic, ensuring political pluralism and proper representation of all the Iraqi people."

Friday, 6 November 2009

Iraqi CP position regarding Election Law impasse

Iraqi CP: Differences must be overcome
to get the Election Law approved

The editorial of "Tareeq Al-Shaab" (People's Path), the central organ of the Iraqi Communist Party, published on 4 November 2009, dealt with the continuing deadlock over the election law. The following are extensive excerpts of this editorial:

Iraqi citizens have been following with interest the sessions of Parliament, waiting to see white smoke signaling the adoption of the new election law, either in accordance with the proposed amendments, or maintaining in force the old, and still valid, Law No.16 (2005).

It is known that the discussions on the election law have gone through various stages that witnessed a lot of debate and dialogue, and differences and deadlock. When the Parliament failed to agree on endorsing the law, it sought the help of the Political Council of National Security to resolve the problem and overcome the Kirkuk obstacle which was forcibly included in the discussions of the law.

Certain formulations were reached by the President, the Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, but they were not accepted by all the relevant parties. They also faced technical barriers that were said to be connected to the electoral register in Kirkuk for the year 2004.

Observers of the parliamentary sessions about the election law and the statements made by the parties would come to the conclusion that the election law has been overburdened in order to achieve electoral gains in advance. The aim for some is to ensure that they maintain positions of decision-making, domination and influence, paying no attention to the repercussions of prolonging arguments and escalating sharp disagreements on citizens and their mood, the negative effects on the political process, and the resulting loopholes that are exploited by the terrorist and anti-people forces. Furthermore, continuing the state of indecision will have a negative impact on the participation of broad masses of the people, especially since significant sections express, one way or another, their lack of enthusiasm for going to the polls because of ruling forces and blocs have failed to fulfill their promises and the pledges they had made to the voters.

The past few days have provided further evidence that influential forces continue to put their own priorities foremost, at the expense of the general interests of the people and the homeland. It goes without saying that these forces will also bear responsibility for any delay in holding elections on schedule on 16 January 2010.

We reaffirm our position that calls for recognizing the importance and necessity of holding the elections on schedule, especially since there are amendments to the current election law which enjoy consensus. These amendments constitute in our view, in the current climate of logjam, a way to overcome this situation, endorse amending the election law, and begin the actual preparations for the elections. The amendments that are the subject of agreement are:

- To fix the election date on 16 January 2010.
- To determine the number of members of Parliament based on the statistical data provided by the relevant departments.
- To replace the word "voters" in the election law in force with the word "population" for the purpose of determining the members of Parliament.
- To adopt the "open" electoral list rather than the "closed" list.
[ i.e. whether voters will be able to read the names of the individual politicians standing for office, or whether they will be asked to cast their vote simply for anonymous party blocs.]
- To establish a committee made up of Parliament and the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, in cooperation with the United Nations, to check the voters register and put an end to the controversy over its accuracy and the harm it does to the interests of this party or that.
- To accept the election results, and to stress that they do not affect the legal status of any province.

If the intention is serious and sincere regarding amendments, then what is the subject of agreement, as mentioned above, can be approved and incorporated into the new law.

As for the issue of Kirkuk, it should be tackled within a constitutional context, and the solution is not linked to the adoption of the election law which is supposed to be comprehensive and covers all the provinces of Iraq. This legal context is based on Article 140 of the Constitution. The delay and inaction, and sometimes neglect, in implementing this article by successive governments have contributed to aggravating the matter instead of moving forward consistently to implement the roadmap set forth in Article 140. If this had been done and implemented, we would not have arrived at the point where we are now with regard to the situation in the city of Kirkuk.

Another factor obstructing efforts to reach a solution is the failure to conduct a population census, which, if it had been carried out in time, would have overcome a lot of present problems and obstacles.

We were fully confident that Kirkuk and other issues could have been addressed within the context of adopting the proposal of conducting the elections according to proportional representation and considering Iraq as one electoral constituency. This is a formula which we believe to be more just and democratic, a better articulation of the principle of citizenship, embodying national unity and ensuring the representation of all the political, ethnic, religious and confessional components in the new Parliament.

We stress anew the need to overcome the differences between the political blocs, confine the amendments to the election law to the points that are the subject of agreement, hold the elections at the specified time, and deny the enemies of our homeland and people the chance to inflict harm.

Iraqi CP demonstration in Basra

Basra .. Demonstration organized by the Communist Party
defends the rights of employees dismissed for political reasons

The provincial organization of the Iraqi Communist Party in Basra, in southern Iraq, staged a mass demonstration on Saturday 31 October 2009, demanding the rights of employees dismissed for political reasons under the former dictatorial regime. The demonstration was joined by hundreds of citizens and party supporters.

Tens of banners called for restoring the rights of people who had been dismissed from their jobs, that are guaranteed by the laws and legislations enacted by subsequent governments since April 2003.

The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for an end to the unjust measures taken by the so-called "Verification Committee" in the Prime Minister's Office by annulling previous decisions to reinstate former employees who had been dismissed for political reasons under the dictatorship. Thousands more such employees had their ranks or job titles unfairly demoted.
Demonstrators chanted: "We, the victims of the dictator.. shall not accept the return of injustice".

When the march reached the headquarters of Basra's provincial council, comrade Abass al-Jourani read out a memorandum from the provincial committee of the Iraqi Communist Party that took up the demands of thousands of employees who had been dismissed for political reasons. The memorandum, addressed to the Iraqi Parliament, referred to the injustice suffered by political activists as a result of the policies of the dictatorship under which Iraqis had languished for several decades. It stressed the need to put an end to all unjust and bureaucratic measures, and to assign the responsibility for this issue to people who give priority to addressing the grievances of the victims.

Iraqi CP new district office opened in Baghdad

Iraqi Communist Party opens new office in UR district in Baghdad

The Iraqi Communist Party opened a new office in Ur district in Baghdad on Friday afternoon, 9 October 2009, in a mass event.

The ceremony, held in the main street, began with a minute of silence in memory of the martyrs of the people and the party. After an opening speech by the party district organization, comrade Mufid al-Jazairy, member of the Political Bureau of the party, delivered a message of greeting that called for turning the office into a centre for welcoming the people, addressing their issues and taking up their demands. He considered the opening of the office a springboard for work throughout the vast district of Ur.

Al-Jazairy pointed out that it is the 17th party office in Baghdad, and will not be the last.

The program of the event included the recital of poetry to celebrate this occasion. The audience received warmly and with great enthusiasm the well-known poets Kadhem Ismail al-Gati', Baqer Jaafar al-Allaq, Hmoud Hussein K'oud and Hamza al-Hilfi. As the celebration continued, more people came from nearby streets and alleys, to listen to the singer and composer Jaafar Jassim who played the lute and presented a number of his songs.

Iraqi CP's mass meeting in Babil province

At a public meeting in Hilla
Mufid al- Jazairy: Kirkuk issue is a mine
in the path of endorsing the election law

Mufid al- Jazairy, member of the Political Bureau of the Iraqi Communist Party, said that the ongoing conflict in Parliament is part of the electoral process that had begun with the provincial elections earlier this year, which produced a new situation and fear among some parties that they could lose their positions after realizing that the voters had let them down.

Al-Jazairy was speaking at a public mass meeting organized on 23 October 2009 by the party's provincial organization in Hilla in Babil governorate (province) in central Iraq. The meeting was chaired by Dr Ali Ibrahim, member of the Central Committee. Comrade Al-Jazairy said: "The Party has sought to draw lessons from previous electoral experiences, and to formulate an election law that would prevent manipulation and fraud. But a mine has been placed in the way, which is the issue of Kirkuk that has nothing to do with the election law because it had been dealt with in the Constitution. However, some have insisted on keeping this mine in place, because they want to conduct the elections without making any amendment to the election law."

He added: "The election law which is to be adopted is not yet known," pointing out that "there are influential forces that claim to be in favor of the open electoral list, while they actually fight hard behind the scenes to keep the closed list system."

"Our battle has been continuing since the beginning of the year, and all the struggles that are taking place, whether inside or outside the Parliament, are struggles over the elections. The new Iraqi state has not yet been built, and each party is exerting efforts to contribute to shaping the character of this state according to its whims. Today we are in an unenviable state, as MPs behave in Parliament under directives from their respective blocs, with their positions being determined by their political leaders. These political leaderships should therefore be held accountable and responsible. It is better to call upon these leaders to settle the dispute over the election law instead of the National Political Council."

Al-Jazairy said: "More than six years after the fall of the former regime, there has been no movement forward. No steps have been taken to resolve the issue of unemployment; no progress has been achieved in the area of services, and nothing has been done to solve the difficult problem of housing. What is required is to act with vigor to bring about change.

"The composition of the Parliament should be changed, and the means for change is in our hands. If the Parliament remains unchanged, the people will suffer enormously. We must do our duty, because the only force capable of achieving the objectives of Iraq is the patriots who care about the homeland. We believe that the future belongs to the democratic current, because it is the only one capable of getting Iraq out of this critical impasse, and we rely on ourselves and on the broad current which is today facing a lot of problems."

He said: "The Communists want a real change, and this is what awaits us in the coming period. We should mobilize and muster our forces, and we have to show others the correct path, urge them to go to the polls, and explain to them the right option whose triumph would ensure building the country."

"Tareeq Al-Shaab" (People's Path), the central organ of the Iraqi Communist Party.
25 October 2009

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Iraqi CP Leader: Single constituency would solve election problem of Kirkuk

Iraqi CP Leader:
Adopting single constituency system
would solve the election problem of Kirkuk

The Secretary of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, Hamid Majeed Mousa, said that "the proper place to resolve the issue of Kirkuk is not in the election law, because this issue must be resolved in the Iraqi constitution."

He explained that dealing with Kirkuk in the same manner as the rest of the provinces within the election law "is a natural thing, as it cannot be excluded and dealt with by a special law. This is in line with the decision of the Federal Court, when asked about the legality and legitimacy of dividing Kirkuk into several parts, describing it then as racist".

Mousa, a member of the Iraqi parliament, said that "the best solution to resolve the issue of Kirkuk is to consider Iraq as a single electoral constituency, which would eliminate discriminating between Iraqis, because everyone will then vote as Iraqis. At present, the majority is seeking to seize parliamentary seats by marginalizing others in order to usurp their votes when they are spread over 18 provinces. This is what is creating the problem."

"Tareeq Al-Shaab" (People's Path), the central organ of the Iraqi Communist Party 19 October 2009

Protest Picket in Baghdad against unemployment and poor services

Protest picket in Baghdad district
against unemployment and poor services

A protest picket was organized by Iraqi Communists in Baghdad Al-Jadidah district in the capital Baghdad on Saturday 10th October 2009.
The protest, against the worsening basic services and unemployment, was held in the local market in Abu el-Hail square. The participants included workers, unemployed people and shoppers. The banners raised in the picket called for “providing job opportunities for unemployed youth”, and safeguarding the rights of people who had lost their jobs for political reasons under the dictatorship. One banner aasked: “What have ministries done to solve the problems of lack of drinking water, electricity cuts and deteriorating health services?” Another said: “No water .. No electricity in the Land of the Two Rivers!”

Speeches and poems were delivered by the participants, while national songs blared out from loudspeakers.
Abed Ali Shneat, one of the organizers (from Iraqi CP’s Al-Risafa al-Thaniya district organization), said that the demands of the protesters also included calls for building schools, cleaning the area, paving roads, in addition to providing clean water and electricity and combating unemployment.
A statement summarizing the demands of the residents was read out. It was addressed to Baghdad’s Provincial Council and the mayor of the Iraqi capital.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Iraq blast targets government, elections

Iraq blast targets government, elections

People’s Weekly World

by: Susan Webb
October 26 2009

The death toll from Sunday's massive suicide car bomb attacks in Baghdad has risen to 155, with another 500 wounded, the Aswat al-Iraq news agency has reported.
The enormous blasts targeted three government buildings - the Justice Ministry, the Ministry of Public Works, and the
Baghdad provincial council, where 10 members of Parliament were attending a meeting. All three buildings were destroyed. The bombings, the deadliest in two years, took place along a road filled with traffic and set more than 150 vehicles on fire, incinerating entire families.
The attacks occurred just before Iraqi political leaders were to meet to work out a compromise on a disputed election law that is needed to allow national elections to happen on time in January. The meeting was held but did not reach an agreement and will re-convene next Monday.
The elections are seen as essential to ensuring the scheduled U.S. military pullout goes forward.
In Iraq, the bloody attacks were widely blamed on remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and other elements seeking to destabilize the country.
"They are targeting the government and the political process in the country," an Iraqi Army spokesman, Maj. General Qassim Atta, told reporters.
"It's about the election," Salman, a Kurdish man looking for a car left behind by his injured brother, told a UK Times reporter. "It's a way of influencing politics."
The blasts yesterday underscored how violence in Iraq has changed its nature in the recent period.
Overall, violent attacks have dropped sharply compared to a year ago, and are different from the broad-scale sectarian violence that was rampant a year or two ago. Sunday's attacks fit into a new pattern targeting politicians, government officials and buildings, and police and security officers. Yesterday's bombings were the second major attack on key government buildings in the past few months. On Aug. 19, coordinated attacks now referred to as "Bloody Wednesday" destroyed the Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry buildings in Baghdad, leaving more than 100 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded.
With the U.S. preparing to withdraw its troops from Iraq, January's national elections will set Iraq's direction for the post-occupation period. The aim of the violence now, many U.S. and Iraqi analysts say, is to undermine the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, hurt his chances of re-election in next January's vote, and at the same time to delay or disrupt that election if possible.
Many in Iraq have warned that violence would increase as the January elections approach. Iraqis say die-hard former Baathists are using the attacks as a bargaining chip, hoping to enlist the U.S. in their efforts to regain a political foothold. Some of these elements fear that with a U.S. withdrawal they will lose this kind of leverage.
In a strongly worded statement yesterday, the Iraqi Communist Party called the attackers "professional killers and criminals."
"In addition to inflicting harm upon the Iraqi people, the aim is once again to sabotage the ongoing political process in our country, and to create the conditions for its reversal and to return Iraq to the rule of dictatorship and tyranny," the statement said.
In yesterday's attack, initial investigations suggested that each suicide vehicle was loaded with more than 1,500 pounds of explosives, the UK Times reported. The blasts were so powerful that they swept away protective blast walls, blew out windows on surrounding buildings and tore deep craters into roads, shattering water mains. The magnitude of the explosives indicated that these were highly organized and well-financed operations.
"It is no coincidence that this new crime of genocide, that has been designed and implemented to spread death and destruction on the widest possible scale, has targeted the headquarters of two ministries and the offices of Baghdad's provincial council," the Iraqi Communist Party said. "It is also no coincidence that the people, who are the victims of the barbaric series of crimes by terrorist gangs, are holding the remnants of Saddam's Baath party, al-Qaeda, militias and organized crime responsible."
Iraqis charge that some of these groups are getting help from surrounding countries who want to keep Iraq in turmoil.
Maliki sent a message to the UN Secretary General and the Security Council demanding the "formation of an international panel to investigate the assaults."
Despite the new bloodshed, the Communist Party urged Iraq's political forces to "overcome their differences and live up to the challenges, and to accelerate the resolution of outstanding political issues, notably the issue of the election law."
This is the only way to rid the country of foreign occupation and build a democratic Iraqi state, the party says

Iraqi CP condemns bombings atrocity in Baghdad

Iraqi Communist Party strongly condemns
heinous bombings atrocity in Baghdad

The Iraqi Communist party has strongly condemned the twin bombings atrocity in central Baghdad on Sunday 25 October 2009 that killed at least 132 people and wounded more than 500 people.
A statement issued by the Political Bureau of the party said "the forces of terrorism and crime have once again unleashed their brutal hatred against Iraq and Iraqis, committing a new heinous crime that has claimed dozens of innocent lives, and shedding the blood of hundreds more civilians."
The statement pointed that, in a manner similar to the atrocity of "Bloody Wednesday" on 19 August 2009, "the wounds of which have not yet healed", the criminal forces "have today carried out their aggression in the same treacherous way, and in the same cold-blooded manner that distinguishes professional killers and criminals."
"In addition to inflicting harm upon the Iraqi people, the aim is once again to sabotage the ongoing political process in our country, and to create the conditions for its reversal and to return Iraq to the rule of dictatorship and tyranny.
"It is no coincidence that this new crime of genocide, that has been designed and implemented to spread death and destruction on the widest possible scale, has targeted the headquarters of two ministries and the offices of Baghdad's provincial council. It is also no coincidence that the people, who are the victims of the barbaric series of crimes by terrorist gangs, are holding the remnants of Saddam's Baath party, al-Qaeda, militias and organized crime responsible."
"While strongly condemning the new heinous crime against our people and homeland, we call on the national political forces to overcome their differences and live up to the challenges, and to accelerate the resolution of outstanding political issues, notably the issue of the election law."
The Iraqi Communist Party called upon the relevant authorities "to pursue the killers and bring them to justice so that they receive the punishment they deserve, and to take measures in order to put an end to such security breaches and protect the lives of citizens and state institutions.
The Political Bureau's statement concluded its statement by expressing sincere sympathy to the families of the victims, and its wishes to the wounded and injured for a speedy recovery.

Iraq elections will shape post-occupation direction

Iraq elections will shape post-occupation direction

People's Weekly World

by: Susan Webb
October 20 2009

With the U.S. preparing to pull combat troops out by next summer, Iraq' s upcoming national elections, scheduled for Jan. 16, will shape the country's post-occupation direction. It's a new phase, with new political and social dynamics.
Although violence continues, it is sharply down from a year ago, and support for religious sectarianism has plummeted. As a result, Iraq is seeing people coming out into the streets, and the beginnings of an upsurge of civil society organizations and protest movements.
Indicative of this trend, more than 40 organizations are working on setting up an Iraqi Social Forum, part of the World Social Forum movement involving social justice and anti-corporate groups. Women's, youth, labor, peasant and human rights groups held a meeting in Baghdad in September to launch the initiative, a first for Iraq.
Another example: a national student organization, the General Union of Students in the Iraqi Republic, held an outdoor ceremony in Baghdad's famous Abu Nuwas public gardens in September to honor outstanding high school students.
And as political jockeying threatened to delay the national elections and limit voter participation, about 50 organizations met with the speaker of Parliament to insist that elections take place as scheduled with rules that promote voter participation and choice.
Some parties trying to hold onto power have pushed to raise the voting age, make a college degree a requirement for voting, and return to a "closed list" process where voters can only vote for a slate picked by party leaders. Some have tried to stall the elections by linking them to resolution of ethnic disputes in northern Iraq.
But the Parliament is expected to approve an election law that sticks to the Jan. 16 schedule, rejects new voting restrictions and retains the "open list" process that enables voters to oust individual political hacks if they want to.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition appears headed toward another win in January, following its victory in provincial elections this winter. Maliki has accomplished this by adopting secular nationalist rhetoric, down-pedaling his leadership of the Shiite Dawa Party, as well as by his popular, tough action to shut down armed militias.
Maliki's State of Law coalition has attracted a range of Shia and Sunni politicians, tribal leaders, sections of the Awakening Councils that split off from armed insurgents, and figures representing various ethnic minorities.
He recently described his coalition as "far removed from a sectarian-based distribution of power" - a slap at his rivals in the reconfigured Shia Islamic coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance.
In fact all the Islamic groups, Shia and Sunni, have been forced to distance themselves from sectarian appeals and instead project "national" programs. But "they don't give any details, just sloganeering," commented Salam Ali, the Iraqi Communist Party's spokesperson, in a recent phone interview.
Maliki and others have borrowed slogans from the left, including talk of a civil, democratic state, but without explaining what they mean by it, Ali noted.
Many doubt Maliki's ability to bring meaningful improvement in people's daily living conditions.
"There is a big backlash against the political elite," Ali said. "People are just fed up with false promises that have not been acted upon by the leading political blocs. People have not seen any improvement in basics like electricity. Corruption is still rife. Nothing serious is being done to improve health care, education and so on."
But the problem is, "Iraq's democratic forces have yet to present themselves as a viable alternative," with a public disheartened after decades of dictatorship, war, and sectarian divisions, Ali said. Democratic and progressive sectors of Iraqi society - unions, women, students, professional and cultural workers, human rights advocates - are not yet sufficiently organized and lack the funding and media capability to reach and mobilize the masses of Iraqis, he said. They are up against powerful groups with well-funded media operations and financial backing from regional powers with their own agendas.
As a result, people who oppose empty nationalist sloganeering, religious and ethnic division, and lack of action on economic and social problems, simply don't vote, he said.
One danger is that, with the public wanting a "firm hand" against violence, if a strong and unified democratic movement does not emerge the country could return to a new dictatorship.
That is the challenge facing Iraq's left and democratic trends.
An important element in that struggle is the continuing battle for trade union rights. Unions are protesting government attempts to control the unions' internal elections. Iraq's largest labor federation, the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, issued a statement this month calling on Iraqi workers to "stand up to defend their legitimate rights."
The labor federation appealed to "the wider trade union movement, professional associations and civil society organizations" for support. It also appealed "for the solidarity support of the international trade union movement."
Although suicide bombings and similar attacks are down 80 or 90 percent from last year, they could increase as the elections approach. Iraqi analysts say groups behind the violence, including former Baathists, are using it as a bargaining chip, hoping to enlist the U.S. in their efforts to gain a political foothold: "We'll stop if you get us a share of power." Also, Iraqis charge that some of these groups are getting help from surrounding countries who want to keep Iraq in turmoil.

Democratic Youth Celebration in Baghdad

Celebration in Baghdad of the 58th Anniversary of Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation

The main hall of the National Theatre in central Baghdad was packed with jubilant masses of youth, on Friday 23 October 2009, celebrating the 58th anniversary of the Iraqi Democratic Youth Federation (IDYF).

The event began with the recital of the Iraqi national anthem “Mawtini” (My Homeland). Speeches were then delivered by Mohammed Khudhayer, from IDYF, and Ayad Kamal from the Kurdistan Youth Federation.

A presentation by IDYF’s theatrical group followed, entitled “Elixir of Life”, with poetry and songs.

Well-known poets, Kadhum Ismail al-Kati’, Nadhem al-Samawi and Nawfal al-Safi (from Karbala), were warmly received by the audience.

The program included traditional Kurdish dancing (“dabka”), performed by the “Kirkuk Newroz” group, that enthralled the audience.

The event was concluded with songs presented by the well-known Iraqi singer Karim Mansour.