Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 5, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MOSQUE AND STATE....Juan Cole says that "the Iraqi government has decided one of the contentious issues that was holding up the provincial elections law." The AP reports:

The Iraqi government on Thursday ordered that campaign materials in upcoming provincial elections can only feature pictures of candidates, in an apparent attempt to keep followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr from using his image to court voters.

The decision would also affect other Shiite parties that often use pictures of popular clerics in political campaigns....Shiite politicians flooded the country with posters of the country's main Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and others during elections in 2005, capitalizing on their prestige to win power.

Needless to say, I had no idea this was even an issue at all, let alone an especially contentious one. Consider me educated. Still, in the same way that McCain-Feingold mostly just had the effect of shifting American election money from campaigns to "independent" 527s, I have a feeling this law might not have much practical effect either. I'm pretty sure that Team Sadr and Team Maliki will manage to find ways to get all the appropriate images lining all the appropriate streets.

Still, progress is being made. And who's against progress?

Kevin Drum 12:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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If only we could find a way to stop those pay-for-play phony slate mailers in California.

Posted by: asdf on July 5, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Progress on what? A new Islamic state in the Middle East? Ask the two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan about this so-called "progress".

Remember Stromberg's First Law - There is no situation anywhere on earth that U.S. intervention can't make worse.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on July 5, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Progress is being made? Surely you jest, Kevin. This is simply political thuggery. With US connivance and support, it encourages a premature civil war amongst the Shites, premature in the sense that they have not yet fully vanquished their Kurdish and Sunni foes. This could lead to a Sunni political resurgence.

Then Iran will wake up, and it will not be pretty.

After all that has passed since you tepidly supported this criminal invasion, and you still have not yet fully grasped the meaning of the term "blowback".

Posted by: bobbyp on July 5, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

It seems several people need their sarcasm detectors fixed.

Posted by: Andrew on July 5, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote about this yesterday -- the proper way to understand this "progress" is to note that in 2005, in a national election that determined who would run the country (or at least tried to) and write the new Iraqi constitution, the Shiite religious hierarchy pulled out all the stops to make sure the slate they put together won.

There are two reasons for them not to repeat that tactic. First, these are provincial elections, and so they don't have the same fundamental importance as the 2005 voting. Second, there's been at least some backlash against Sistani & Co. for having brought to power such a spectacularly inept and corrupt government, so it makes sense that they don't want to compound the damage.

Since Sistani ruled earlier in the week that his name/image couldn't be used, the Maliki announcement isn't so much a step toward secularism as it is implementing the grand ayatollah's wishes (as usual). Phrasing it so that Sadr's image is banned as well is a way of making the proverbial chicken salad out of the situation (though, as Kevin notes, both Sadr's and Sistani's local networks will undoubtedly find an alternate way of making their preferences known).

Posted by: Swopa on July 5, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Irony anyone!

Posted by: Captain Dan on July 5, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraqi government on Thursday ordered that campaign materials in upcoming provincial elections can only feature pictures of candidates...

When I first read this I was thinking that was the ONLY thing that could go on "campaign materials" was a picture of the candidate, nothing else. No words, slogans, etc. I'm pretty tired today. Never mind.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on July 5, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

As one who reads Juan Cole (and obviously KD does as well), it is not a surprise that this particular issue has come up. Imagine the screaming in the US if we only let one party use the flag in their campaign literature. The different factions are trying to insure the others don't obtain an unfair advantage. And Sistani, doesn't want his mug used by campaigns he hasn't officially endorsed.

This looks like progress to me. Along with the fact that the Iraqi government is (mostly) standing up against the worst provisions of the SOFA we are trying to impose on them. Most of all, some Iraqi politicians are openly discussing a timetable for US withdrawal. Heres hoping to be asked to leave them alone.

Posted by: bigTom on July 5, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

[Unsigned trolling deleted]

Posted by: on July 5, 2008 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

I have a feeling this law might not have much practical effect either.

While I can appreciate the intent, it may have a very negative effect by inviting confrontation which the government can't control.

What are they going to do with the violators? Strike them from the ballot? Send security forces into the streets to tear down posters? Send security forces into mosques to enforce the "no campaigning" rule? (That was also part of the new rules.)

In a more stable environment the result might not be any worse than the rise of 527's. In Iraq the result could be much less benign.

Posted by: has407 on July 6, 2008 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Whoa, Kev baby. Luv ya, dude, but you're way off base on this one. Progress? It's obvious the gov't is trying to rig the outcome. Surely you can't really support that, can you? Whatever happened to freedom of speech? (Not that it ever really existed in Iraq, but we can support it in principle, can't we?)

Posted by: Geneva Mike on July 6, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK



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