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June 28, 2005

A Fan of Ayatollah Sistani (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? New York Times Edition)

My college roommate Robert Waldmann is a fan:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: I'm back in the Sistani fan club. Ayatollah Sistani just argued in favor of provincial lists for future parliaments as opposed to a national list. This would mean that predominantly Sunni areas will be represented proportional to population even if turnout was low. I argued that, of course, the election of the constitutional assembly should have been on a provincial basis. So, I just learned did Ayatollah Sistani. Unfortunately the crack UN elections team considered the national system easier to set up and the rest is in the daily papers....

Oddly.... Sabina Tavernise repeats the line that Sistani's efforts have been focused on maximizing power of Shi'ites. The logic of this is that Sistani had the crazy idea that Democracy involves elections. Since Shi'ite Arabs are the majority, this exposed him to claims that he wanted absolute power of the majority. The evidence is that he opposed fake Democracy in which Paul Bremer would appoint the people who appointed the people who elected the people who would claim to represent The People.

The latest evidence would tend to undermine this theory, since Sistani is advocating a change... which would give Shi'ites less overwhelming power. One could argue that this is a... concession... [to] the insurgency.... Tavernise manages to argue this:

The statements by Ayatollah Sistani are the latest foray into Iraqi politics by the Shiite leader. Pressure from him was a major factor in establishing an accelerated timetable for the elections in January. That pace, however, largely dictated the election's countrywide system, because United Nations organizers considered it the simplest and quickest way to organize the vote. When United Nations officials met with the ayatollah in March, he chastised them for choosing the system, and said he favored setting assembly seats aside district by district, a preference he reiterated Monday. Mr. Yasiri, the Shiite politician, said Ayatollah Sistani had characterized the January election as flawed. In the past, the ayatollah has reserved his efforts to pushing for measures, like nationwide elections, that were likely to enhance the power of Iraq's Shiite majority.

Try to make sense of that quote. In particular try really hard not to notice that the last two sentences directly contradict each other. I am correct that "March" is currently "in the past". Weird. Also the idea that it is Sistani's fault that after the CPA stalled for months the UN organizers had to rush and so needed to make a national list because... they "considered it the simplest and quickest way to organize the vote." Odd I thought the problem was the census, not ballots and such.

Unhappy is the country that needs heroes. Especially the country that needs foreign born, reclusive clerical heroes with bad hearts. Still I say buy that man some Caspian Sturgeon Caviar (and remind him who explained that it is halal).

Posted by DeLong at June 28, 2005 05:09 PM