Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Tariq al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice president and prominent leader in Al-Iraqiya List led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi which won the legislative elections held on 7 March, has stated that Al-Iraqiya faced major challenges like “disqualification and Debathification” and also “the campaigns of distortion and tampering with the voters’ will.” He pointed out that his bloc was open to all the political forces to ally themselves with it but did not refer to an alliance with the State of Law Coalition [SLC] which is led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who rejected the results of the elections. Al- Iraqiya List won 91 seats, two seats more than Al-Maliki’s list.
Al-Hashimi said the Federal Court’s interpretation of who should form the government, the winning candidate in the elections or the candidate with the highest number of seats after forging an alliance with others, “has no value and not binding on anyone.” He also stressed that neighboring countries’ interference in the Iraqi affair is obvious, adding that something similar to the meetings in Tehran between Al-Sadr Trend, SLC, the Iraqi National Alliance [INA] which is led by the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council and Ammar al-Hakim, and the Kurdish Alliance to conclude alliances happened in a neighboring country by other “political parties” a few months ago.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What’s next after your victory in the elections?
[Al-Hashimi] First of all, we congratulate all the Iraqi people on the occasion of the start of the comprehensive change. We also express our thanks and appreciation for all the Iraqis who voted for Al-Iraqiya and those who voted for the others because they contributed to the success of the democratic process in Iraq and expressed their views in a civilized way. We reproach those who lagged behind the process in the hope of reviewing their stand and joining us to build and reconstruct Iraq.
Al-Iraqiya faced many challenges since its establishment, starting with the disqualification, Debathification, and exclusion of national symbols to the campaign of distortion and hostile pamphlets which exposed the spirit for monopolizing power, the rigging which prevailed in the elections, and not finally the attempt to tamper with the voters’ will and the pressure on the judicial establishment to pervert the clause about the biggest bloc. Al- Iraqiya was committed from the start of the campaigns against it to responding through legal and civilized means that are commensurate with the stage of democratic change and it will continue with this approach.
The curtain has dropped on the elections scene with Al-Iraqiya’s victory and which is now preparing to negotiate with the various winning blocs after having completed its plans to negotiate and formed its own team for that purpose.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How much effect will the appeals by those objecting to the results of the elections have?
[Al-Hashimi] In principle, everyone has the right to appeal and object to the results of the elections or their procedures on condition that there is the evidence to back these appeals. According to sources close to the [Independent Higher Election] Commission [IHEC], the complaints lodged with it so far will not have any significant effect on the results. As to “Al-Iraqiya’s” appeals, their outcome have not appeared so far.
The lists have the right to object within the framework of the law and no one has the right to ascribe infallibility and legitimacy to his appeal and even does not have the right to impose on the IHEC the way with which it should deal with these appeals.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The results of the elections necessitate alliances for forming the government. What is your view of the map of future alliances?
[Al-Hashimi] The results achieved by Al-Iraqiya and its victory can be considered a victory with many aspects. In addition to getting the highest number of votes, it won the Iraqi street’s trust and acceptance, as it is obvious, and led the change from the start when it broke the barrier of sectarian entrenchments.
The dialogues are ongoing with the various parties and Al-Iraqiya is open to all, as we had asserted, and we are ready to accept an alliance based on a real national program that is qualified for a qualitative shift in the various fields. Al-Iraqiya bloc wishes to form a real national unity government whose members are chosen on the basis of professional political criteria and not sectarian and other ones and of the absolute commitment to the separation between authorities and respect for the legislative authority’s prerogative to supervise the government apparatus.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] To what extent are you confident of the peaceful transfer of power?
[Al-Hashimi] Any statements outside the framework of the constitution and laws are unacceptable, negligible, and we do not pay attention to them. The cycle of change has started and a media blackmail by this or that party is not going to delay or impede it.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the Federal Court’s interpretation of the “biggest bloc” term mentioned in the constitution?
[Al-Hashimi] The opinion voiced by the Federal Court has no legal value and hence not binding on anyone because it is not the body that has jurisdiction. Law 30 for 2005 under which it was established did not give it the authority to examine or express an opinion about the constitution. On the other hand, the Higher Federal Court has the right under Article 92 of the permanent constitution and qualified under Article 39 which stipulates: (Article 39, second: Interpret the texts of the constitution) but does not exist at present because it has not been established so far. Moreover, the constitution does not authorize any other court to practice its prerogatives and therefore the “court’s opinion” is invalid and negligible and has moreover breached many political, legal, and moral considerations, especially the voter’s right to choose the list which will form the government. Despite its illegality, the “court’s opinion” aborted the justifications for the elections process and unjustifiably absented the voter’s will. While having due respect for it, we will not pay any attention to the opinion of the court as it is not its prerogative.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you face the same disagreement during the last elections in 2005?
[Al-Hashimi] In 2005, the Unified Iraqi Coalition rushed to form the government without any objection from the other blocs because it was the first winner. The other blocs accepted this and opened the way for the bigger bloc. Today we are surprised by the refusal of the ruling party, which was part of the winning bloc until recently, to have Al-Iraqiya form the government. This is a clear cheating and tampering with the texts to suit personal whims and interests. It constitutes an unacceptable dangerous precedence in the path of democracy. I remind the parties which supported the “opinion” to review the statements of their leaders when leaked IHEC reports suggested the SLC’s victory and who were saying in one voice “the SLC is winning and will form the government.” What changed the situation on 21 March (announcement that Al-Iraqiya List was ahead)? The reports of Al-Iraqiya’s victory during the days preceding the announcement of the results changed the situation. This swing in the stand has characterized the SLC’s positions, not only now but also over the past years and has become a phenomenon clear for all to see.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You proposed yourself for the post of the president of the republic. However, the Kurds are insisting on keeping the post for President Jalal Talabani. Will this disagreement affect Al-Iraqiya’s alliance with the Kurds?
[Al-Hashimi] I would like to correct your information. Al-Hashimi did not propose himself for any specific post and will not do so. He leaves the matter to the Iraqis to choose the post in which he serves them more.
Every Iraqi, whether he is a Kurd, Arab, Turkoman, or from any other community has the right to be a presidential candidate if he meets the constitutional conditions. Competition is likely. The way is also open for expressing opinions about this or that position, this or that candidate. “Al-Iraqiya” has good relations with the Kurdish Alliance and there is no real problem or obstacle between us. Differences in viewpoints are likely but do not affect the real depth of the relationship.
The choice of the Iraqi figure for any specific post should be subject to criteria associated with the homeland’s interest and not any other consideration. On this basis I made my statement at my interview with Al-Jazeera which had absolutely no personal motives. This is how I see my country’s interest, which is not necessarily identical to the views of others.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe there are regional pressures and interferences to shape the next government? How do you describe the meeting of some Iraqi leaders in Tehran to discuss the results of the elections?
[Al-Hashimi] The interference in the internal affairs by neighboring countries is a phenomenon that the monitor’s eye does not miss. What is happening in Tehran today happened in a neighboring country before months but by different political parties. The noticeable thing is the media clamor which objected to this at the time and the silence combined with satisfaction this time. It is a strange and bizarre stand. The Iraqis are very worried by the Tehran meetings because they involve a redrawing of the political map on sectarian basis. The interference is definitely unacceptable, especially when it goes beyond consultation and the exchange of views to reach the point of participation in making the decision.
It is a regrettable phenomenon which Al-Iraqiya bloc will act to put an end to by repairing and reforming the internal situation and launching national reconciliation that brings the Iraqis together behind the national common interests and constants.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you had dialogue with other coalitions?
[Al-Hashimi] The dialogues began with several parties before the elections, among them the INA, Al-Sadr Trend, and the Kurdish Alliance. The statements by these forces’ leaders are satisfying and indicate a realization and awareness of the Iraqi situation and the danger of returning to the ethnic and doctrinal polarizations and sectarian entrenchments. We are open to all and our condition is the agreement on the national program.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is the US side not involved with the results of the elections?
[Al-Hashimi] I have no information about this issue and have not read reports confirming or denying interference. But I know the US side provided many of the logistical and security requirements to ensure the success of the elections. I hope that the US side was content with this aspect.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Al-Iraqiya is accused of being fragmented and threatened with splits. What is your comment?
[Al-Hashimi] This is part of the psychological war that has targeted Al-Iraqiya and its symbols right from the beginning. Those wagering on Al-Iraqiya’s split were disappointed. This will not happen, God willing. Al-Iraqiya’s leaders realize before others the importance of their cohesion and remaining united because the task of reform and change on which they agreed requires this.