In southern Iraq, the call of Grand Ayat Allah Ali Sistani to hold early elections has wide support, while Iraqis in central Iraq follow other religious bodies who favour Iraq’s liberation before election.
The Iraqi Governing Council and some Iraqi politicians find themselves nearly alone in their call for restoring the state's power, rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, and regaining Iraq’s independency and sovereignty, before holding elections.
However, they are accused of having their own agenda.
"Those who oppose elections in Iraq have their own political concerns, but they never reveal them. They put Iraq’s poor administrational infrastructure as a pretext for postponing elections," Dr Mustafa al-Bazergan, an Iraqi political analyst and consultant of the Iraqi Information and Research Centre in London told Aljazeera.net.
Following the Clerics
Rare harmony between religious leaders and politicians, means that many Iraqi political parties have adopted the call of Sistani who enjoys more popular support in Southern Iraq than any Iraqi political party or figure.
There are also political parties who say Sistani’s call reaches people’s hearts and minds. However, after more than three decades of sole party rule, hundreds of political parties have appeared in Iraq since the US-led invasion.
"We want early elections, why not?" said Adil Abadi of the National Unity and Reconciliation Party. "Everything is ready to run the elections. They do not want elections because their men would lose. We back Sistani’s call and strongly condemn the agreement signed by the IGC on 15 November, because it is merely an appointing mechanism." he added.
Dr Mizhir al-Dulaimi, Chairman of the Community of Protecting Iraqi People told Aljazeera: "We reject the use of words like majority and minority in Iraq, all Iraqis are first class citizens". "We fully support the option of direct elections, but some measures must take place first." he added.
Ayad al-Samaraie from the Iraqi Islamic Party (represented in the US appointed IGC) also told Aljazeera: "The aim is free, honest, and beneficial elections, I can say that elections at this stage will not be free, honest and beneficial."
He argues that the Iraqi state is fragile and still lacks an administrative structure. "For the first time in the history of the Iraqi state, Iraqi pilgrims are not able to reach holy Makka. Look at them stuck on the Iraq-Kuwait border. If the Iraqi administration is not able to organise the annual pilgrimage! How can it hold elections?”
The US does not want an Islamic Iraq with strong Iranian influence, while the powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Ali Sistani does not want a secular Iraq. "Grand Ayat Allah is also concerned that the Americans will somehow manipulate the system, and that eventually you will have a national assembly consisting mostly of people who would like a secular Iraq" said Amatiza Baram, an Iraqi expert working for the United States Institute of Peace.
Baram added that Sistani is afraid that Sunni and Kurds would get more than they deserve. However, some Iraqi experts dismiss that idea saying that other factions are afraid of holding elections fearing an overwhelming Shia victory.
Grand Ayat Allah Sistani enjoys
wide support in the Iraqi south
Statements by some Shia clerics have raised fears among other Iraqi parties. Spokesman for The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMS) the highest Muslim Sunni Authority in Iraq, Dr Muhammad Ayash al-Kubaisi told Aljazeera that sectarianism could be detected in some statements released by Shia leaders.
"A representative of Sistani said it is enough to hold elections in stable Iraqi territories, we can sense sectarianism in such statements. We wish to hear from Sistani directly in this regard. It is an attempt to brush aside main Iraqi governorates such as Al Anbar, Mosul, Diala and Baghdad. We know that even Baghdad is not secure enough, just last Monday the US headquarters were hit in central Baghdad".
He said it is as if Shia are telling the Americans, if we keep our areas calm, we want something in return. We do not want elections to be part of a deal," pointed out al-Kubaisi.
Not trusting occupation
"Why does the US insist on elections in Iran, without democracy, while insisting on establishing democracy in Iraq without elections?" exclaimed Dr Mustafa al-Bazergan. "The US and its allies occupied Iraq allegedly to establish democracy, and when Iraqis want to practice it, they refuse! While in Iran, there are elections, but the US alleges that Iranian elections are not democratic!"
In this regard Dr Muhammad Ayash al-Kubaisi said: "We simply do not trust the occupation authorities. Responding to a question on whether the AMS would accept US guarantees for free and honest elections, he said:"The US occupation forces taught us not to trust them, we can not deal with any US guarantees."