Tuesday, February 15, 2005

BAGHDAD — Newly elected politicians see a brighter future for Iraq.

While the horse-trading continues to see who will fill the presidency and top Cabinet positions, the nation’s top female politician, Raja Khuzai, and National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie are talking about simpler things ” getting the electricity, water and sewers working again.

“Everything will change in a new Iraq. It will be the alternate vision,” Mr. al-Rubaie said hopefully. “We’re not talking about our positions now, but our victory. For the Iraqi people, it is the first election in history where they could express their view.”

Both candidates were elected on the ticket of the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shi’ite cleric-backed coalition that won about 48 percent of the more than 8 million ballots cast in the historic Jan. 30 vote.

A Kurdish coalition of parties from northern Iraq took about 25 percent, and a secular Shi’ite list led by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi received about 13.8 percent.

For Mrs. Khuzai, a requirement that the new assembly be 30 percent female means that human rights will stay at the forefront. Talk of religious law, or Shariah, being adopted in Iraq will be moderated by female assembly members, she said, who don’t want to lose inheritance and divorce rights afforded them under secular laws.

“We don’t want to go to Islamic rules,” Mrs. Khuzai said. “It is our role in the assembly to follow this.”

Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an aide to leading prime ministerial candidate Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said on Sunday that the constitution to be written by the new assembly must not conflict with Shariah. But neither is Islamic law expected to play an important role.

Sunni Muslims and other groups who won only a handful of seats in the new assembly are expected to be invited to participate in writing the new constitution. The document will be subject to a national vote by the end of August under a timeline set out by American advisers.

“One of the aspects of the constitution will be where the religious interacts with civil law,” Mr. al-Kadhimi said. “But we don’t see religion playing a key part in this constitution.”

Mrs. Khuzai, who is a medical doctor, also wants to make sure girls and women get just as much access to free health care and education as men do.

“This is my dream as a physician in Iraq. I know how much women have suffered,” Dr. Khuzai said. “In the future, I want women’s health centers in every governorate in Iraq, with cancer screenings and other things that have been neglected.”

But, Mr. al-Rubaie said, security must come first, and he believes the first step toward ending the insurgency is to get the economy going again.

Ba’athists loyal to former dictator Saddam Hussein will not be allowed in the government, but they need to be treated equally, he said.

“The government should represent all Iraqis,” Mr. al-Rubaie said. “All groups will be invited to help write the new constitution.”

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