Allawi’s reign must end today

Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister has been a failure and deserves to go.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  January 30, 2005

Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister has been a failure and deserves to go. The sight of millions of iraqis heading to pollING stations today is history in the making. Who would have seriously believed, even a year ago, that Iraqi Kurds, Iraq's Communist Party, the United Iraqi Alliance and the Iraqi List would be contesting democratic elections in the country. Who would have thought that 19,000 candidates would be contesting 275 National Assembly seats? But the real test for Iraq is tomorrow, when the polls close. The biggest mistake Iraqis could make would be to give a permanent mandate to Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his Iraqi List party. His handling of the Iraqi economy, where unemployment has stayed at over 50% under his leadership, and his failure to channel US$8 billion of aid into the country, are enough reasons to vote him out. But now, worse has come to light. There have long been suspicions that Allawi's use of brute force to crackdown on political rivals is akin to that of Saddam Hussein. The latest Human Rights Watch Report, released last Monday, appears to confirm this. It says that Allawi's government “appears to be actively taking part, or is at least complicit, in these grave violations of human rights". Some of the most troubling claims in the report are that Allawi's newly formed secret police, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, has illegally arrested scores of his political rivals from the Islamic Dawa Party and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution. This is the same Allawi who has been welcomed with open arms by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush. Thankfully, in recent days both Blair and Bush have been slowly distancing themselves from Allawi. Today, the people of Iraq must do the same at the ballot box. Double vision This issue we feature the progress made by the UAE's only cable television provider, E-Vision. And it is some progress: In less than five years, the company has grown from 20,000 to 400,000 subscribers. The achievements of chief executive Humaid Rashid Sahoo are nothing short of remarkable. But the hard part is only now beginning for E-Vision. Parent company Etisalat has invested about US$800 million in the project, and has seen no return so far. As the UAE market opens up to foreign competition, it is likely E-Vision's revenue stream will fall, no matter how many Indian and Filipino movies it broadcasts. And as Sahoo knows, the experience of cable companies in Europe has not been good. Most ended in financial disarray. E-Vision is a good, sound operation. But Etisalat will need patience and deep pockets. What a turn off It had been proclaimed as the greatest breakthrough in television technology, but makers of flat screen displays may be staring at white elephants. The prices of liquid crystal display sets plunged by 20% in the final quarter of 2004. There are too many on the market and too few buyers for now. This is disastrous news for the likes of LG Philips, the world's second-biggest flat screen maker. Last week it reported a staggering 94% drop in fourth quarter earnings for 2004. The company still posted a US$33.7 million net profit, but the slump is a huge worry. And the worst may be yet to come, as manufacturers spend an estimated US$40 billion in the next decade producing the sets. Unless the trend catches on, some of the world's biggest electronic giants face a major crisis.

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