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To: Progressive Community
From: Center for American Progress
Re: U.N. fact-finding report on Iraq political transition

We would like to draw your attention to a report released today by the U.N. secretary-general’s fact-finding mission to Iraq. Led by Ambassador Lahkdar Brahimi, the U.N.'s special envoy for Iraq, the team was sent to Baghdad to address the political standoff between the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Interim Governing Council, and Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. The team reported that tensions were high, warned of the potential for civil war, and ruled out the possibility of elections this June. The report outlines a roadmap for future elections and offers proposals for how Iraq should be governed between the transfer of sovereignty and elections.

Some key points from the report:

  • CPA-devised caucus system 'not viable.' There are significant deficiencies in the caucus system that the U.S. proposed to choose a national assembly. The report cited the "widespread opposition from numerous sectors of Iraqi society" to that process as lacking transparency and the sense that it was being manipulated by the Coalition Provisional Authority. The report also warns that the caucus model is without a clear definition and could lead to inconsistent application from governorate to governorate, leading to wide voter disenfranchisement.
  • June 30, 2004 transition date affirmed. All parties agreed on the date of June 30, 2004 for a transition of power from the Coalitional Provisional Authority to an Iraqi governing body. According to the report, Iraqis want a government in place to restore their "sovereignty and dignity" as soon as possible.
  • Elections not possible before June 30, 2004. It would be extremely difficult and even hazardous to organize elections before that date. The team established three criteria for holding elections: 1) a legal framework; 2) an institutional framework; and 3) availability of required resources. According to the report, the minimum time for holding a credible election after meeting these three criteria is eight months.
  • Elections possible as soon as January 2005. If the basic agreements of an electoral law are agreed upon by May 2004, elections could take place as soon as January 2005. Most Iraqis believe that running a national assembly and constitutional assembly simultaneously could lead to significant "political strife." Instead, a single elected assembly taking on both roles chosen through the January 2005 elections is preferred.
  • The way forward. As neither the caucus plan nor direct elections are feasible in within the June 30 time period, the report recommends a transitional structure with a limited mandate as a 'caretaker government.' It does not make recommendations as to how this caretaker government would be selected, but suggests the Governing Council's life could be extended or enlarged to act as a legislative body. Another suggestion outlined is a national conference of delegates from across Iraq. Regardless, the report urges the creation of an independent electoral authority as soon as possible and calls for a consensus on electoral framework: the basis and form of representation, voter eligibility criteria, electoral law and political party law.

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