by Brian Conley and Shadi Al'Kasim
(IPS) AMMAN -- Despair over the Iraq election has spread to a large number of expatriates who voted in the Dec. 15 election.
An estimated 320,000 Iraqis living in other countries voted, along with an estimated 10 million Iraqis. To add to the widespread complaints within the country, the Electoral Commission has registered 692 complaints by Iraqi expatriates alleging fraud.
Not so long ago, at least in Amman, optimism was the word best suited to describe the feelings of Iraqis going to the polls. Christians, Sunnis, and some smaller indigenous groups make up Amman's expatriate Iraqi community.
Doared, an Iraqi from Baghdad, told IPS he had great hope for the future of Iraq. "I voted for Allawi, list 731, for a better future, I chose the good future of my country."
Other Iraqis in Amman supported other sets of candidates such as list 800, the Assyrian party, and list 618, the main Sunni list. Athari, a Sunni woman from Baghdad's heavily Sunni Adhamiya district, explained her voting strategy, "The Sunni list, number 618, are the best of the worst."
However, just as inside Iraq, and during the previous election, Iraqis also expressed cynicism about the elections. "No, for sure I won't vote for anyone," said Ra'of from Salahudin. "What voting and what election are you talking about, this is bullshit!"
The commonly held belief is that Iyad Allawi has been a collaborator with Americans, was formerly involved with the CIA, and was also a Ba'athist. But many expatriates saw his party as the best option among a long list of poor choices. For them disappointment has deepened with his poor showing.
Rafil, a Christian, said he voted for list 731 (Allawi) "for security and safety." This view reflects the view of many expatriates that the secular parties are more inclined to keeping Iraq unified.
"At least when he (Allawi) was the prime minister of Iraq, we did not have as many terrorists attacks as there are happening now, also we never heard about any torturing against anyone," said Omar. Moner, an Assyrian from Baghdad said Iraqis need their country to be one country and Allawi "is the best one who can do it."
The strong Christian and non-Arab mix of Iraqi expatriates, along with Amman's intellectual and middle-class Iraqis, appears to account for their apparently strong slant towards the secular lists of Allawi and other minor parties.
Although Amman's Iraqis approached the election with a measure of optimism, some are saying they are willing to fight if this election does not go well.
The Iraqi resistance had clearly stated that the elections would not end their fighting. With the results in dispute, these words ring more true than ever.
Conflict and allegations of fraud have led to an outpouring of dissent in the three weeks since the election. The Sunni opposition parties, the Iraqi Accordance Front led by Adnan Dulaimi and the National Dialogue Council headed by Salih Mutlaq, along with Iyad Allawi's National Iraq list, are calling for a re-poll in all provinces where complaints have been reported.
Both Iraqis who supported the election and those who opposed it have come onto the streets since the vote was completed. Groups on both sides are making veiled threats of armed response if their complaints to unheeded.
Expatriates in Amman seem to want the continued unification of Iraq above all else. Most saw the election as the last chance to stop Iran's influence.
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