Sunnis, Secular Iraqis Demand Vote Review
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Farai Chideya.
Coming up, conflicting messages on the war in Iraq make uneasy neighbors in one Minnesota city.
But first, in Baghdad today, 11 members of a Shiite family were killed by gunmen who invaded their house in a largely Sunni district. The family had been warned to move out.
Fears of deepening sectarian divisions also surfaced politically. Sunni and secular groups today refused to hold discussions with the Shiite religious bloc that's leading in the country's parliamentary elections. They want a full review of the results and alleged vote rigging. With us now from Baghdad is Jill Carroll, who's reporting for The Christian Science Monitor.
Jill, tell us about these calls for a review of the election results?
Ms. JILL CARROLL (The Christian Science Monitor): Sunni Arabs are the minority in the country, but believe they're entitled to a lot more power than they've been given, and they believe that the results that have so far come out show that they've only gotten a handful of seats in the parliament and they think they deserve a lot more. They think there's been fraud involved and vote rigging to keep them from having power. This is, of course, the group of people that was under--lived in a privileged status under Saddam Hussein and now feel they're being subjugated by the ruling Shiites.
CHIDEYA: Are the Sunnis likely to get what they want?
Ms. CARROLL: It's hard to say. Right now everyone's bargaining positions are pretty entrenched and it's more just bravado in negotiating. I mean, it's hard--we don't know what the final positions of everyone will end up being. But of course, one of the main points is changing the constitution. Sunnis particularly want to change a provision that would allow autonomous regions in the country, and Shias are very, very much against changing that provision. Whether either side can really make compromises and find that middle ground is unclear, but that's going to be a big problem and that's something they'll have to overcome in order to have a stable, unified government.
CHIDEYA: At the moment, what is the breakdown of seats between the various groups?
Ms. CARROLL: We don't really know yet. I mean, we have very preliminary results coming out, not even solid numbers to look at. But basically, we have in--the Shiite bloc is going to have the vast majority of the seats. The Kurds will have the next highest number. Together, those two will have enough to make up two-thirds of the parliament probably, which is all they need to name a president and choose other important government positions. That leaves the Sunnis with a few seats and not really much power or say in the parliament, which is why they're so upset and why they're contesting the results of the election.
CHIDEYA: And how worried are Iraqi leaders by the political differences over the election and by incidents of violence, such as the killings of the Shiite family in Baghdad today?
Ms. CARROLL: The leaders are the ones having a problem compromising. I mean, if the Shiites and the Kurds can get together and allow the Sunnis not only to participate but to have actual real say in this government, then we're going to see a more unified Iraq going forward, which would seriously undermine the insurgency. But if the Sunnis go forward and participate but aren't given a real say at the bargaining table, we could see a lot more destabilizing forces and a lot of Sunnis again returning back to the gun and the insurgency as a way to have their voices heard rather than the political process.
CHIDEYA: Jill Carroll is reporting for The Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad. Thank you.
Ms. CARROLL: Thank you.
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