London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr Adel Abdel Mahdi, Iraqi vice president and leading member of the Islamic Supreme Council, with his expertise and political experience summarizes the prevailing situation in Iraq in one of the difficult political and social periods, especially in the post-elections era. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat via the Internet, he admits, “Iraq has not yet come out of the difficult times.”
Abdel Mahdi is an academic who is open to all ideas, despite the fact that he is a leading member of an Islamic party. He deals with all political variables with an open mind. Also he is the strongest candidate of the Iraqi National Coalition Bloc to the post of prime minister, a post he nearly assumed four years ago, but he sacrificed it for the sake of “the continuation of the political process, and also for the sake of Iraq and the Iraqis,” as he always stresses.
Here Abdel Mahdi talks with his usual candor about the elections and the interactions of the political arena currently and in the future. He stresses that “the Iraqi National Coalition has not yet nominated any person for any future political post,” and he also stresses the importance of building the “state of institutions.”
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that major violations actually took place in the elections, including fraud operations for the benefit of certain lists?
[Abdel Mahdi] First of all we ought to recognize the efforts exerted by the Independent High Electoral Commission [IHEC]. There is no doubt that violations and acts of fraud took place before and during the elections. This is a price that is paid by every young democratic experiment. For this reason we called for the ratification of the law of the rules of electoral behavior in order to get more transparency and impartiality. Nevertheless, objectivity and fairness require us to admit that these negative aspects should not prevail over the positive aspects and the choices of the voters, which remain the greatest truth, and on which we can rely.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are many candidates for the post of prime minister from the Iraqi National Coalition of which you are a leading member. Some announced themselves as candidates of the coalition for the post of prime minister, including Baqir al-Zubaydi and Qusayy Abdul-Wahhab (Al-Sadr Trend). What is the truth of these nominations?
[Abdel Mahdi] Until this interview, the Iraqi National Coalition has not discussed its nominations for the prime minister’s or any other post. These are merely leaks and media promotions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you a candidate for the post of prime minister, or will this issue remain pending or under discussion?
[Abdel Mahdi] This issue is left for the Iraqi National Coalition and the national powers. Anyway, according to the constitution, the president will be obliged to commission the candidate of the parliamentary bloc that has the largest number of seats to form the upcoming government.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you prepared to form an alliance with the Al-Iraqiya List, chaired by Iyad Allawi, to form a parliamentary bloc large enough to qualify you to form the government? If this were to happen, would you support Allawi to assume the prime minister’s post?
[Abdel Mahdi] We do not have enemies. We all are partners. However, we ought to respect first of all the constitutional context, the results of the elections, and the facts that occurred on the map of the upcoming Council of Representatives. Ultimately, what is important is to form an effective government that is capable of responding to the entitlements of the elections, and of winning the confidence of the Council of Representatives. It ought to be a successful government, efficient, and not hindered by exhausting conditions. It ought to be a government that is subject to the supervision of the Council of Representatives, and responsible to it. It ought to be a government whose structure allows it to march forward, fulfill the demands, security, and prosperity of the people, restore to Iraq its regional and international role, and perform its duties in an institutional and legal way, and with the highest participation of the political powers and constituents of the Iraqi people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think of nominating President Jalal Talabani for a second presidential term? Do you think that his nomination will consecrate the Lebanization of Iraq, i.e. to make the president a Kurd, the prime minister a Shiite, and the speaker of the Council of Representatives a Sunni, as some people say?
[Abdel Mahdi] I believe that there is general acceptance of President Talabani, and I do not think that Iraq is moving toward Lebanization. Talabani is personally qualified, as he first and foremost has been approved by all, he has been the safety valve for Iraq under its complicated conditions, and has played a major role in improving the Iraqi relations with the Arab and Muslim world, and with the international community. On the other hand, preventing any citizen from assuming any post in the State of Iraq is the way to the Lebanization of Iraq. Today, Iraq is a democratic and pluralistic country, and all posts ought to be open to all Iraqis; what decide this are the electoral entitlements, the political balances, and the interests of the country, but nothing else.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you support allocating the post of the president to an Arab politician, either a Sunni or a Shiite?
[Abdel Mahdi] There is nothing to prevent this. The allocation of posts takes place according to the entitlements and balances required to form relations between the powers and constituents within the balance of the variable powers that might go today in a specific direction, and tomorrow in another one, and on whose basis the individuals change according to their ethnic, sectarian, religious, or political belonging.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are those who talk about the waning of the popularity of the Shiite and Sunni Islamic parties. What is your opinion?
[Abdel Mahdi] There is waning in regions, and strengthening in others. In general, I see waning and strengthening on both fronts. I see that the parties and powers that call themselves secular have started to give religion more attention, raise slogans, and speak using an address that differs from the one they used in the past. They have started to include Islamists in their ranks. On the other hand, I see that the parties and powers that call themselves Islamic have become more realistic and have started to include in their ranks the so-called secularists, or to use increasing amounts of the non-ideological realistic address.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think, as US President Barack Obama said, that Iraq will go through a difficult period after the elections?
[Abdel Mahdi] Iraq has not yet come out of the difficult times. I do not think that the elections themselves will increase the difficulties of the Iraqi situation. On the contrary, the elections will help in easing the situation if we achieve a government that respects the Constitution, the laws, and the institutions, and that obtains the highest possible participation and efficiency. Wide participation and success in pushing forward Iraq’s security, economy, society, and foreign relations are what will get Iraq out of its crisis, and not the other way round.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect major problems after announcing the final results of the elections?
[Abdel Mahdi] Yes, there will be noise and protests. However, the momentum and acceptance generated by the elections, and the huge number of domestic, and international observers, and also the journalists, all these will lead to containing the noise. This is natural and healthy, and will motivate us to develop our electoral system, and to develop our political system to a more mature and efficient standard.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the situation in Iraq after the latest elections?
[Abdel Mahdi] It is a beautiful image at the foreign level. The Iraqi experiment has started to take effect at the Arab and international levels, and Arab and non-Arab leaders have started to talk about the Iraqi experiment proudly and endearingly. I believe that this will have considerable effects in the future on our surroundings, and on improving the way the others deal with us. Moreover, this has extremely positive effects on the Iraqi domestic arena, on the political psyche, and on regaining self confidence and confidence in the new regime. This will help in bringing up extremely positive results at the security, economic, and social levels within a reasonable and not indefinite time. In general, the Iraqi experiment started cautiously, and it was sometimes rejected by many at home and abroad, and then it started to assert itself, and build its own characteristics; this is the opposite of the military coup d’etat, which in most cases is applauded in the beginning, and then its popularity starts to wane gradually.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect the Iraqi-Arab relations to improve in the future?
[Abdel Mahdi] The improvement of the relations, even their development, and the return of Iraq to an effective, positive, and reconciliatory role with its Arab and Muslim environment is a condition and a result of the positive development of the situation in Iraq. The more the Iraqi experiment progresses, the more it gets stronger and acquires an Arab momentum. Ultimately this is an addition that changes the role into progress, cooperation, and activation of partnerships, rather than pulling each other backward, creating crises, and weakening the Arab situation, which also needs reform in its tendencies, institutions, and priorities.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that the experiment of the Presidency Council will be repeated in the next session?
[Abdel Mahdi] The Presidency Council was for one electoral term, and its role constitutionally has ended. The next president will have all the powers of the Presidency Council, except the power to rescind the laws of the Council of Representatives.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the future of the relations between Kurdistan Province and the center after the elections?
[Abdel Mahdi] In principle, the relations ought to be positive. Everybody has learned that bias does not benefit anyone; commitment to the Constitution, institutionalism, and the higher interests benefit all without exception; and that good relations depend on both sides, i.e. on the federal government, its good management of the dossier, the coordination and partnership required between it and the government of the province, and the respect of the powers of the government of the province. The government of the province ought to perform its duties, fulfill its commitments, and support the efforts of the federal government, in which it is an effective partner, in order to enjoy all its powers that are approved by the Constitution.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the principal duties to be shouldered by the upcoming government and parliament?
[Abdel Mahdi] The duties are to move completely to the other side; to consolidate the constitutional institutions and the impartial, legal, civil behavior; to liquidate the unilateral, monopolistic, and tyrannical heritage and culture of the past; to look to the future; and to establish security and political participation. This will be done through an economic and services leap forward that will protect the gains, and restore the self-confidence of the Iraqis, and the confidence of the world in Iraq.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you assess the performance of the Iraqi Government whose term is ending?
[Abdel Mahdi] We have said everything during the electoral campaign. We ought to utilize the positive things the government has achieved and the negative aspects of its failures in order to start the work of the upcoming government.