Iraqi Election Portends a Nightmare, Warns Bishop

After Hard-line Muslims Claim Victory

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, JAN. 10, 2006 ( An Iraqi bishop says his faithful were faced with a «nightmare» after hard-line Muslims claimed victory in the country’s general elections.

Adding his voice to widespread allegations of fraud in the Dec. 15 polling, Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna of Baghdad described how the hopes of the country’s Christians were dashed after the elections.

Iraqi Christians, victims of random kidnappings, bombings and intimidation, had hoped that the elections would signal the end of instability and halt Iraq’s slide into an Islamic theocratic state, the Chaldean prelate told the charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Instead, however, despite reports of a good electoral turnout of Sunni Muslims, the religious Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) is thought to have won almost half of the 230 parliamentary seats, raising the prospect of am alliance with the UIC’s nearest rival, the Kurdistan Alliance.

After winning just three seats, the Christians are unlikely to have much say in the new Parliament.

In the interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Abouna, 62, explained how Christians felt «caught in the middle» amid complaints of intimidation tactics and tampering with election ballots. He described how the election was blighted by «mistakes» and «cheating.»

Awaiting stability

«How can you build a government on a false election?» he asked. «If you want to build democracy, the results should be clear and beyond doubt.»

Bishop Abouna, who is assistant to the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, said: «It is really a nightmare. The Christians here … have been waiting so long to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are now very sad. They are just asking: ‘When will the country be stable?'»

Bishop Abouna’s comments come as international monitors announced they were preparing to visit Iraq, an initiative backed by the United States and the United Nations.

If the results are confirmed, the Unified Iraqi Coalition is likely to push ahead with a dramatic Islamization of the country, increasing the likelihood of the introduction of Shariah, Islamic law.

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