November 22, 2004


Iraq Vote a Priority for Shiite Leader (Alissa J. Rubin, November 22, 2004, LA Times)

Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has launched a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for Iraq's upcoming election, determined to ensure that Shiites have a chance to win the power that he believes rightfully belongs to the nation's majority Muslim sect.

Iraq's electoral commission announced Sunday that the poll to elect a transitional parliament would be held Jan. 30, although speculation has deepened that the vote will be postponed.

Sistani is acutely aware that this is a critical juncture for Iraq's Shiites, analysts say.

"Sistani thinks that this is the Shiites' moment to reverse the last 80 years of being out of power — some would say the last 1,400 years," said a senior Iraqi government official, who asked not to be named. Shiites largely lost power to Sunni Muslims in 1920, when they refused to participate in a government under British rule.

Since a U.S.-led coalition toppled Saddam Hussein's regime last year, Sistani has been a strong proponent of early, direct elections, trying to promote Iraqi nationalism as well as Shiite political interests. He has met with Kurds, most of whom are Sunnis, and Christians as well as secular and religious Shiites.

From homey neighborhood mosques to the sprawling shrines that are the center of Shiite religious life, the vast Shiite hierarchy with ties to Sistani is hard at work.

The mosques' leaders are following the fatwa, or religious ruling, issued by Sistani in mid- October requiring every man and woman to vote. The spiritual leader elevated the duty to vote to the same level as fasting during Ramadan and praying five times a day — among the five most sacred obligations for observant Muslims.

"Without a fatwa from Sistani, it's difficult for people to participate in this election because of the threats and apathy about the future. But if we have a religious edict, that definitely has an important impact," said Jabber Habib, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "With such a fatwa issued, I can't imagine anyone [Shiite] not voting."

It is going to prove the third great foundation of democracy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 22, 2004 8:39 AM

I don't know fatwa from fat*ss, but it would be helpful if the Shite majority would aid the US in putting down the Sunni insurgency, like the Kurds are doing.

Posted by: h-man at November 22, 2004 12:06 PM


Why should they? If the infidels are willing to die doing it why sacrifice the faithful?

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2004 12:27 PM