Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iraqi Vice-President on the Campaign Trail

By Meethaq Fadhil in Nassriyah (ICR No. 103, 27-Jan-05)

Jaafari is spokesman for the Dawa party, a Shia group that is one of the main players in the United Iraqi Alliance, one of the front-runners in the forthcoming National Assembly election.

Talking to reporters and potential voters, al-Jaafari expressed concern that some Sunni Arabs would be unable to participate in the elections because of the unstable situation in towns like Ramadi, Mosul and Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit.

But he was sceptical of suggestions mooted in the United States that parliamentary seats should be set aside for Sunni candidates even if they fail to win a big enough share of the popular vote to merit them.

“The election process is an Iraqi process and will be born out of the Iraqi womb,” he said. "Elections are the normal route for entering parliament. I don't think there will be two ways of entering it."

Al-Jaafari, a medical doctor by profession, escaped to Iran in the Eighties after the Saddam Hussein regime outlawed his Dawa party, which has link with Iran. He lived in London before returning to Iraq in 2003.

The coalition of which Dawa is part was set up at the request of Iraq's supreme Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has not, however, put his considerable influence at the disposal of any particular party.

Asked to comment on the phenomenon of various political groups and candidates using Sistani’s photo on their campaign material, al-Jaafari said the election was an open competition, and every party and candidate had the right to use any photo they want. He added that the United Iraqi Alliance is a diverse party that includes secular Shias, non-Muslims and other groups.

In a wide ranging speech, the vice-president urged women to participate in the elections.

He also said Iraq was one the richest countries in the world, but the “wrong politics” had made it poor.

Meethaq Fadhil is an IWPR trainee journalist in Iraq.

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