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WikiLeaks: 2010-01-25: 10BAGHDAD185: Opportunities and Perils for Minorities in National Elections

by WikiLeaks. 10BAGHDAD185: January 25, 2010.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:17 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
10BAGHDAD185 2010-01-25 13:12 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Baghdad

DE RUEHGB #0185/01 0251312
P 251312Z JAN 10
C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 000185 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/12/2020 
REF: A. 09 BAGHDAD 3298 
     B. 09 BAGHDAD 2758 
     C. 09 BAGHDAD 2911 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gary A. Grappo for Reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: Christian political and religious leaders 
tell us that while they had hoped for more than a five-seat 
quota in the national elections law, they view March 7 
elections as an opportunity to expand their representation 
and influence within the Parliament.  In contrast, leaders of 
the Sabean-Mandean, Shabak, and Yezidi communities have 
expressed concern that larger political blocs will try to 
"steal" their seats with candidates nominally from their 
communities, but actually loyal to the blocs.  Regardless of 
the outcome, the inclusion of minority quotas in the national 
elections is likely to build on gains made throughout 2009 in 
expanding minority participation in Iraqi politics.  END 
2. (C) The amendment to the national elections law that 
passed the Parliament on December 6 and will govern the 
national parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7 
includes eight seats reserved for Iraq's minority 
communities, including five for Christians, one for 
Sabean-Mandeans, one for Yezidis and one for Shabaks.  Of 
these eight reserved seats, the amendment stipulates that the 
five Christian seats be treated as a single district, meaning 
that Iraqis from across the country (and outside it) will be 
allowed to vote for their preferred candidate, regardless of 
where they reside.  In contrast, voters for the remaining 
three seats are limited to a particular governorate -- 
Baghdad for the Sabean-Mandeans and Ninewa for the Shabaks 
and Yezidis -- a difference that will impact the political 
calculus of these particular minority communities.  The 
introduction of the minority quota system into the national 
elections law (a system that did not exist in the 2005 
national parliamentary elections) builds on the precedent 
established in provincial and Kurdistan Region elections held 
during 2009.  In those elections, minorities were elected to 
serve on the Provincial Councils of Baghdad (one Christian 
and one Sabean-Mandean); Ninewa (two Christians, one Shabak, 
nine Yezidis) and Basra (one Christian) as well as the 
Kurdistan Regional Parliament (six Christians, one Yezidi). 
In addition, one Christian also serves on the Provincial 
Councils of Dohuk and Kirkuk although the elections for these 
bodies took place in 2006. 
3. (C) The five-quota seats for Christians guarantees that 
the community's representation in the next Parliament will 
double given that there are currently only two Christian MPs 
in the current COR.  Nevertheless, some Christian leaders 
have complained that the demographic weight of their 
community should have entitled them to more guaranteed seats. 
 On December 15, Armenian Archbishop Avak Asadourian told the 
Ambassador and A/S Feltman that the Council of Bishops had 
formally petitioned the Parliament for a quota of 12 seats 
based on a calculation of one representative for every 
100,000 Iraqi Christians believed to exist (ref A).  On 
January 13, Fahmi Mansour, the head of the KRG-based Popular 
Council of Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians (one of the two 
largest Christian political entities competing in the 
elections), told Poloff that his party had asked the 
Parliament for a quota of 15 seats.  Poloff countered by 
pointing out that several Christian leaders are running for 
Qpointing out that several Christian leaders are running for 
seats outside of the quota system with larger political 
entities such as State of Law (Prime Minister Wijdan Selim 
and PM advisor Georges Bakoos), the Iraqi National Alliance 
(Khaled Mirza), and the Kurdish Democratic Party (George 
Kako), which could allow the Christian community to expand 
its representation beyond the quota of five members (ref B). 
4. (C) No matter how many Christians are ultimately elected, 
their numbers are unlikely to give them significant influence 
on legislation in the 325-member Parliament.  Nevertheless, 
Christian MP Yonadam Kanna (the head of the other large 
Christian political party, the Assyrian Democratic Movement) 
told Poloff on January 5 that the major benefit of having 
five members will be the ability to place Christians on all 
of the Parliamentary committees that impact their community, 
such as Education, which the two current MPs have been unable 
to cover alone.  Both Kanna and Mansour predicted that their 
respective party would claim three of the five reserved 
seats.  Kanna told Poloff that he had maneuvered in 
Parliament to make the Christian seats a single Iraq-wide 
constituency vice multiple districts to prevent Mansour's 
party from easily claiming seats from the Kurdistan Region by 
asking its Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) allies to have 
some of its Muslim members vote for the Popular Council to 
swing the election.  (COMMENT: One of the drawbacks of the 
quota system is that it does not ensure that only members of 
the protected community vote for that community's seats.  In 
the July KRG elections, representatives of the Assyrian 
Democratic Movement complained that the KDP had instructed 
Muslim party members to vote for KDP loyal Christians.  In 
fact, Shabak MP Hunein al-Qaddo told Poloff January 11 that 
he had warned Kanna not to make the Christian seats a single 
district because it was theoretically possible for the KDP to 
direct enough votes to the Popular Council to enable them to 
claim all five seats.  END COMMENT.)  Regardless of what the 
KDP decides to do, the creation of a single district for the 
Christian quota has increased the importance of 
out-of-country voting (OCV) in the election with both major 
Christian parties planning on campaigning actively during 
February in both neighboring countries and the United States. 
5. (C) After months of lobbying Iraq's political leaders, 
Sabean-Mandean leaders succeeded in their efforts to include 
a reserved seat for their community in the next Parliament 
(ref C).  On December 30, Poloff met with three leaders of 
the Sabean-Mandean community -- Mandean Endowment Director 
Tomah Zahroon, Mandean Council Secretary Hussein al-Zuhairy, 
and Ambassador Matheel al-Sabti -- to discuss the first 
election of a Mandean to the national Parliament.  Despite 
their appreciation for Embassy efforts to secure the Mandeans 
a seat in Parliament in spite of the small size of their 
community -- estimated at less than 10,000 persons -- the 
Mandean leaders expressed frustration that their reserved 
seat would only appear on the ballot for Baghdad and not on 
ballots country-wide like the Christians.  Zahroon asserted 
that 70 percent of the Mandean community lived outside of 
Baghdad and that the law's stipulation that only voters in 
Baghdad province could cast ballots for the Mandean seat 
effectively disenfranchised those members of the community 
from selecting their own representative. 
6. (C) Zuhairy said that the Mandean community in Baghdad had 
nominated one candidate for the seat, Khaled Rumy, who had 
the blessing of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Sittar Hillo, 
and that the predominantly Shia coalition Iraqi National 
Alliance (INA) had pledged its support to get Rumy elected if 
he would side with its bloc in the next Parliament.  The 
Mandean leaders were all adamant that they would not ally 
with any larger political blocs and said that they had turned 
down the INA's offer, but were now afraid that the INA would 
capture the seat by assisting one of three other registered 
Mandean candidates in exchange for INA support.  To prevent 
this scenario from occurring, Zuhairy said that Mandean 
leaders believe that Mandeans from across Iraq should be 
allowed to vote for the quota seat.  They said they had taken 
their complaint to the Independent High Electoral Commission 
(IHEC) as well as to UNAMI SRSG Melkert, but with no result. 
Now the Mandean leaders plan to initiate an action in the 
courts on the grounds that the election law discriminated 
Qcourts on the grounds that the election law discriminated 
among the different minority groups in terms of its treatment 
of the reserved seats.  Poloff commented that it was unlikely 
that the Parliament would be able to amend the election law 
at this time. 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
7. (C) As with the Mandean leaders, the current 
representatives of the Shabak and Yezidi communities within 
the Parliament have also expressed concern about larger 
political blocs targeting their seat.  On January 11, Shabak 
MP Hunein al-Qaddo told Poloff that the INA had offered him 
the prospect of an alliance, but he had turned it down. 
Qaddo said that while the INA was running a Shabak candidate 
in Ninewa, his real concern was with the KDP-allied Shabak 
candidate.  Qaddo asserted that the KDP was putting a lot of 
resources into this candidate and that he feared Kurdish 
voters in areas without Shabaks would be directed to vote for 
the KDP-candidate to make him the winner.  Qaddo opined that 
if IHEC were fair, it would not allow votes for the Shabak 
seat from areas like Sinjar or Shaykhan where no Shabaks 
reside.  He feared that local peshmerga forces in the 
disputed areas might deny him freedom of movement in order to 
carry out his campaign.  On January 18, Yezidi MP Amin Farhan 
told Poloff that he too feared that his movement might be 
restricted by the peshmerga and that he was also concerned 
that one of the candidates backed by the Kurds would succeed 
in capturing the Yezidi quota seat.  Farhan said that he 
thought the presence of the peshmerga in all of the Yezidi 
areas of Ninewa would naturally tilt the vote toward the 
Kurdish-backed candidates. 
8. (C) COMMENT: The fact that many of Iraq's major political 
factions have reached out to minority communities to expand 
their influence in the next Parliament is an encouraging sign 
that minorities are being drawn into the political process. 
However, Iraq's minority communities also face the prospect 
of not having their preferred candidates elected by making a 
principled (but perhaps foolhardy) stand against making 
election alliances.  Regardless of who is elected, the 
expansion of the number of minorities who will serve in the 
next Parliament should further cement gains that have been 
made over the past year to ensure that Iraq's minority 
communities have a political voice.  The political impact of 
those gains will only become clearer with the results, which 
will indicate whether minorities have gotten their preferred 
candidates into office or were overrun by the big alliances. 


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