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WikiLeaks: 2005-12-08: 05BAGHDAD4912: What Campaigning in Iraq Looks Like

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011 at 09:25 PM CT


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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05BAGHDAD4912 2005-12-08 21:09 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Baghdad
This record is a partial extract of the original cable.
The full text of the original cable is not available.

082109Z Dec 05
E.O. 12958: N/A 
 1.  With so much at stake, campaigning for the December 15 
elections is intense.  The security situation weighs 
heavily on the campaign, and leaders of the major 
coalitions make relatively few public appearances.  That 
said, we sense there are more public campaign events than 
we saw in the January 2005 election.  There is also much 
more sophisticated advertising on television, although 
smaller parties have a long way to go.  Many amateurish 
parties in January failed to even highlight their list 
number.  By contrast, all the election slates are 
highlighting their list numbers to help guide voters on the 
ballots.  By contrast, all the election slates are 
highlighting their list numbers to help guide voters on the 
ballots.  There have been instances of harassment, 
intimidation and even some murders of campaign workers. 
However, most parties have the opportunity to get their 
message out to at least some parts of Iraq.  A bigger 
challenge for them is knowing how to get a message out and 
financing that campaign. 
2.  Here is a sampling of the campaigning so far: 
-- POSTERS/FLYERS: Walls around Baghdad and other Iraqi are 
covered in posters, often glued on top of posters hung up 
by another party the previous day.  Posters are a common 
and widespread way of reaching voters in Iraq, particularly 
since many small parties lack the funds to purchase radio 
or television advertising.    As an example, a Shia 
Alliance poster, with a picture of SCIRI leader Abdulaziz 
Al-Hakim and Ayatollah Sistani, contains the phrase "yes to 
the future of a secure and prosperous Iraq."  Allawi 
posters appearing this week feature young adults and urge 
them to vote for their future.  Recently, negative 
campaigning in the form of anti-Ayad Allawi posters and 
flyers has appeared, comparing Allawi with Saddam Hussein 
and associating him with the Ba'athist regime.  One of 
these posters shows half of Saddam Hussein's face and half 
of Ayad Allawi's face and asks, "Who does this man remind 
you of?" 
-- TELEVISION/RADIO ADS:  The Iraqi TV channels have plenty 
of information about the elections, including extensive 
advertising by the election commission about how to vote 
and how the ballots will be counted.  (Comment:  there is 
nothing even close to this level of detail about the 
election process on American television.  End Comment.) 
TV is another effective way for parties to reach the Iraqi 
people, but, since it is expensive, only the largest 
coalitions/parties are using it much.  Television ads are 
very common for the National Iraqi List (Allawi's 
coalition), the Shia Islamist Coalition, and the Kurdish 
Alliance.  USAID has sponsored television spots for all 
parties on the al-Iraqiyah network, using the same length 
of time, studio, and background for all spots filmed.  Some 
channels are closely affiliated with the parties: the Al- 
Furat satellite network is linked with SCIRI.  During a 
televised Shia Alliance campaign rally, the lower left hand 
corner of the screen blinked an icon of a voter checkmark 
above "555".  The Kurdish Alliance is utilizing a similar 
method on their satellite stations reminding people to 
choose "731". 
The low-budget TV ads just feature the candidate list 
leader as a talking head.  Slicker ads feature man-on-the- 
street comments extolling the list or its leader.  The 
slickest ads are from people like Allawi (who probably has 
the most ads on the air).  One Allawi ad features 
individual Iraqis saying they want things like gasoline, 
electricity, dignity, water, jobs and the final speaker who 
wants a government that does what it pledges to do.  Less 
verbal but clear is an ad for former Defense Minister 
Shalan.  It features a young, frustrated musician 
attempting to beat out a tune on an Iraqi oud.  He looks at 
the sheet music but can't get the song right.  Suddenly a 
hand puts a new sheet of music in front of him and melody 
of Iraq's national anthem flies from his strings.  The 
camera shows the sheet of music, which has the number 511 - 
that of Shalan's list. 
-- NEWSPAPERS: This is another common form of reaching 
voters, although illiteracy rates are high.  Many 
newspapers are owned or are controlled by the major parties 
or major politicians.  As examples, the Dar Al Salaam 
newspaper in Basrah is affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic 
Party (part of Tawafoq); al-Ittihad is affiliated with the 
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK); and al-Bayan is 
affiliated with the Dawa Party.  The newspapers will 
contain advertisements for their affiliated party (similar 
to the posters) and editorials in support of their party or 
against their competitors.  For example, al-Bayan published 
an editorial November 27 entitled "Compare Before Choosing" 
that essentially endorsed the Shia Alliance as the best 
-- CAMPAIGN RALLIES: These are less common given the 
security situation, but they do occur.  Hussein Shalan from 
Allawi's 731 coalition told PolOffs December 6 that the 
National Iraqi List held a rally in Diwaniyah attended by 
2,000 Iraqis, and the Shia Alliance has been holding 
rallies in the South led by Abdulaziz Al-Hakim - a recent 
rally in Amarah was televised on al-Furat television. 
During this rally, Al-Hakim told the people "in this 
election, there are some people who want to reintegrate the 
Ba'athists;" the crowded automatically shouted "No, No 
Allawi."  INC leader Chalabi reportedly attended a December 
7 Sadrist rally near Sadr City on the anniversary of the 
death of Mohammed Sadik al-Sadr; the Deputy Prime Minister 
told the crowd that Mohammed Sadik had helped to topple the 
former regime and that he (Chalabi) was present to 
participate in the event with his Sadrist brothers. 
Smaller campaign events do occur: the Unified Faili Kurd 
Coalition planned a small rally November 30 in the Faili 
Kurd section of Baghdad.  The head of the list, Dr. Thair 
Faili, told us December 1 he has organized several walks 
through Faili districts of Baghdad, stopping to greet 
pedestrians and make impromptu speeches as he moves.  He 
noted security is a risk and he keeps a team of bodyguards 
at his side all the time. 
-- TELEVISION DEBATES: On December 6, VP Shaykh Ghazi Al- 
Yawr (National Iraqi List), VP Adil Abdulmehdi (Shia 
Alliance), and Planning Minister Barhim Salah (Kurdish 
Alliance) debated on al-Arabiyah television.  Al-Hurra held 
a widely watched panel debate with 8 candidates last week. 
USAID has also sponsored a political talk show "Elect for 
Iraq" that appears three days a week on al-Iraqiyah 
television with political candidates in front of a NGO- 
selected studio audience. 
-- MEETINGS/CONFERENCES: On December 1, a political event 
was held in Najaf in front of NGOs and the media where 
political parties were able to present their party 
platforms.  In Basrah, 700 women attended an IIP-sponsored 
meeting, and 500-600 women reportedly attended a National 
Iraqi List meeting in Diwaniyah.  Assyrian parties are 
reportedly holding townhall meetings. 
-- MOSQUES: Shia imams have used the Friday prayer service 
to endorse the Shia Alliance, and the Shia Alliance has 
been accused of using mosques as campaign offices.  The 
Kurdish Islamic Union is reportedly conducting grassroots 
outreach efforts through mosques. 
-- CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS: In a unique gambit, the Sunni 
Arab Islamist Tawafoq list is using Ahmed Radhi, the most 
popular soccer player in Iraq and a coach for one of the 
popular teams in Iraq, in their posters and campaigning. 
-- CELL PHONE TEXT MESSAGES: A text message in Arabic has 
been sent to many Iraqna cell phones (Iraqna has the 
largest subscriber base in Iraq) that states: "The pillars 
of Islam are 5, the family of Muhammad are 5, there are 5 
prayers in a day, and the number of the Coalition is 555. 
Vote, O Shia, and win in this world and the next." 
-- WEBSITES: All of the major parties have websites, but 
these are of limited use since the vast majority of Iraqis 
do have access to the web. 
-- OTHER: Parties often utilize vehicle parades with 
loudspeakers and banners attached to their vehicles to 
reach voters.  In Diwaniyah, the National Iraqi List 
sponsored a cultural festival.  Some parties give out 
trinkets:  one poloff is the proud owner of an Ibrahim 
Jafari calendar urging a 555 vote.  However, our general 
sense is that the Kurdish Alliance gives the best campaign 
souvenirs:  one poloff scored a baseball cap with the 730 
logo of the Kurdish Alliance, and another got a desk clock 
and a day planner for 2006. 

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