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Filed October 13, 2002 By Jeremy Scahill
Iraqi MP Mohammed Modhfer Al Adhami.

BAGHDAD—A leading member of the Iraqi parliament has asserted that Tuesday’s presidential referendum on Saddam Hussein will be more fair and democratic than the elections that brought US President George W Bush to power in Washington.

“[Bush] was chosen by the court,” Iraqi MP Mohammed Modhfer Al Adhami told “In America and the west, elections are based on money. [In our elections] there is no money paying to vote.”

The streets of Baghdad are full of hand-painted banners with the official slogans for the October 15th presidential referendum on Saddam Hussein. “Yes, Yes to President Saddam Hussein,” “Saddam Hussein: The Greatest Leader for the Greatest People,” “Victory to the Iraqi and Palestinian People,” and “Yes, Yes Saddam, No, No USA.”

Iraqi TV is also flooded with “campaign ads” urging people to mark yes on the ballot. Some revolve around Saddam’s defiance of America and Israel, others portray the president as a man of the people, mingling with crowds and listening to their cries. Songs blast extolling the virtues of the Iraqi leader as hearts and flowers cast around pictures of Saddam fill the screen.

An Iraqi TV ad urging citizens to vote "Yes" to Saddam Hussein in the October 15th national referendum.

On Tuesday, there will be no candidates on the ballot, no party ticket to choose from-there won’t even be a question. People will simply be asked to mark one of two boxes: yes or no. The last time a referendum was held on the Iraqi leader was in 1995, when he received 99.96% yes votes. With great candor, Iraqi politicians predict a slight increase in support from 7 years ago.

“When every Iraqi says yes to President Saddam Hussein, it’s a challenge to the American administration, and to the Israelis, and to the British Government,” said Al Adhami, the Iraqi MP. “We refuse your aggression, your threat. And we will vote for Saddam Hussein, which means we will vote for our future.”

People here are aware of the recent reports in the US media of the alleged plan by Washington to impose a military governor on a post-Saddam Iraq, modeled after Japan following World War II. According to the New York Times, the White House is considering a long-term occupation of Iraq. “In the initial phase, Iraq would be governed by an American military commander-perhaps Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf.” This has only reinforced the single campaign issue in Tuesday’s referendum: a choice between Saddam and Washington.

“President Saddam Hussein is now an international personality,” said Al Adhami. “He is the symbol of challenging this evil aggression which the Americans will threaten against Iraq. We believe and the Arabs believe that they will start with Iraq and then move to the other countries.”

Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating, the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.

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