BAGHDAD – U.S.-appointed interim Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi recently handed out $100 bills to journalists at a press conference. He then gave teachers an unexpected $100 bonus.
Allawi seems to be on his way to winning the election in Iraq, such as it is.
Wa’il Issam, an unemployed translator, has his views about this kind of campaign. "Allawi is bribing people and using money to buy votes and support from journalists, retired people and teachers," he said. "And I promise you that Allawi is fixing it so 70 percent of the Shias will vote for him, even though it will be a faked election."
Wa’il Issam spoke of other ‘provisions’ that will help Allawi. "Now it is possible for one family member to cast votes for all of the people in his house," he said. "How do you think a man who has worked for six secret service organizations from different countries could lose this election?"
Allawi has dollars and clout, but he appears to lack the respect of many Iraqis. "Anybody elected in these so-called elections will be a puppet of Bush," said an 18 year-old biology student at Baghdad University. "Especially Allawi."
Allawi’s CIA connections are never far from people’s minds.
"Allawi was a Ba’athist with Saddam and now he is a dummy of the Americans," says Ali Hammad Adnan, a 42-year-old who sells petrol on the black market to feed his family of four.
Allawi left Iraq in 1971 to study in London, and did not return to Iraq until after the U.S.-led invasion of his country. He has been accused on the other side of providing faulty intelligence to the United States to justify the invasion. He is known to have worked with the CIA in an attempt to overthrow former dictator Saddam Hussein in 1996.
Now Iraqis distrust Allawi. "It’s not a matter of elections," said 23-year-old Suhaid, a computer science engineer in Baghdad. "Those with power will stay in power. This is all a big lie we are facing, and these elections are totally illegitimate."
Allawi is determined to hold elections under any circumstances. Security measures continue to increase, and now Iran has announced the closure of its borders with Iraq until after the elections. Curfew hours within Iraq have already been extended.
The U.S. military faces an average of 80 attacks a day now as Iraqi resistance continues to spread.
U.S. forces are hitting back. U.S. and Iraqi forces raided a mosque in Sadr City in Baghdad Wednesday and detained 25 followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr who is boycotting the elections. At least nine Iraqis have died during a string of car bomb attacks in Kirkuk in the north.
But many Iraqis still say they will vote for Allawi.
"I will vote for Allawi because I think he will bring the security for us which we so desperately need," said Zuthir Abbas in the Khadamiya district of Baghdad.
Abbas announced his intention even though he said he does not know the number of the electoral list Allawi heads, or where he would go to vote, since the Commission for Elections in Iraq has yet to announce the location of polling stations.
Others say they will vote, whatever the legitimacy of the elections.
"Whether he is legitimately elected or not, he will remain in power," said 28-year-old Shia blacksmith Ahmed Shuhab. "He appears strong and he acts like he knows what he is doing because the American and Iraqi armies are supporting him."
(Inter Press Srvice)