x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Government in Iraq not helpful in elections

"The Iraqi election has put the electoral commission under increasing pressure. But the row over preliminary results has increased only after the balance tipped to one bloc over others," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh.

"The Iraqi election has put the electoral commission under increasing pressure. But the row over preliminary results has increased only after the balance tipped to one bloc over others," noted the Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh. Calls for manual recounting show a disrespect of the rule of law. It is a move that is unlikely to help Iraq recover from years of chaos because any government interference in the electoral process would be against the will of voters, who look at the election as the safety boat to pull them out from the abyss of sectarian conflict.

A central question arise: why do not we respect the will of the people and trust the electoral commission as it was meant to be independent and responsible before the parliament? In fact, it is the respect of the voter's choice which makes a difference between advanced countries and the third world, and contributes to the success of democracy. Iraq is experiencing a new democratic venture amid sectarianism. The only risk that could topple the democratic process in Iraq is when disagreement occurs about the formation of the government, or when a split happens within security apparatus. Many hope there are signs of a growing conviction by Iraqis of the necessity to gather around principles of nationalism - for example, the Iraqi National List, which represents a wide spectrum of clans and sects to run for election.

"After the Sudanese government signed an agreement with the Liberation and Justice (LJM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a crucial question emerges: is this a way to reach a sustainable peace agreement that will put an end to the Darfur crisis?" asked Ahmad Amrabi in a comment article for the Qatari daily Al Watan.

The agreements constitute a good step towards achieving peace as they lay down the basis for further negotiations. Yet there are two challenges: how to conduct peace talks and whether there is enough time to get the negotiations to the desirable end. The JEM insists on being the main interlocutor with the government, hence rejecting the idea of involving the other party in the process, the LJM. The government is willing to talk to both movements, which is a proposal refused by the JEM.

Peace stakeholders are short on time. They have less than two weeks to settle negotiation issues and reach a peace deal before the election in April. Worse still, the JEM refuses to run in the election and all parties concerned need to wait until after the election and the formation of new central government to discuss their demands. In the meantime, can the ceasefire survive?

In its editorial, the UAE newspaper Al Bayan said that the statements made by the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu that building in Tel Aviv is like building in Jerusalem is a clear rejection of negotiations, whether direct or indirect. Mr Netanyahu boldly stated his government attitude in Washington just before his meeting with the US president Barack Obama. Mr Netanyahu, apparently, has made some manoeuvres to appear as if he made concessions to justify his meeting with the US president. The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced that she received some "useful" suggestions concerning the dispute over the settlements, while Mr Netanyahu said that he made his government's stance clear.

Mr Netanyahu's current visit came to follow a tradition of former Israeli heads of government attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), and just after the row over the new decision to construct 1,600 now housing units in the occupied East Jerusalem. Normally: "Netanyahu should not be given the opportunity to enter the White House as long as he has not reversed his declaration and met the international demands." But it appears that he planned his visit in order to move away from a defensive position, but that will only make him act more provocatively, which necessitates a clear and decisive action by the US president.

"The Israeli premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, seems unready to sacrifice his job for the sake of settlements - Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority is unlikely to also accept negotiations in fear of fierce criticism by his detractors," wrote Abdul Rahman al Rashed in an opinion piece in the London based newspapers Asharq Al Awsat.

If Mr Netanyahu is weak, and Mr Abbas is afraid, the logic requires no negotiations should be held in secret. Only when both parties are convinced can the negotiations turn to be successful and lead to a final settlement with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. This brings us back to the beginnings of the Oslo talks, which were first held behind the scenes. And this time, with the aim of setting up a state and achieving true peace, it is noy wrong to pursue the same procedure.

Historically, public negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have led participants from both sides to resist pursuing the process as they always come under severe criticism and also threats. And since it is impossible to satisfy all parties because of their disparate interests, the idea of holding secret negotiations for two years seems plausible. * Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi

melmouloudi@thenational.ae