Revealed: How Blair interfered in Iraqi election

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to “interfere” in the recent Iraqi elections, by secretly spearheading a campaign to boost the chances of Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  March 13, 2005

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to “interfere” in the recent Iraqi elections, by secretly spearheading a campaign to boost the chances of Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Arabian Business can reveal that Blair arranged for one of his closest allies, the Labour peer Lord Alli, to meet with senior executives from one of the Gulf’s most prominent public relations companies before the election. At the meeting, believed to have been held in Qatar earlier this year, Alli and at least one other senior Labour party official outlined publicity, marketing and advertising campaigns designed to keep Allawi in power. The meeting was in direct contradiction of Blair’s public claims that he was promoting “free and fair” elections, with all parties and candidates being given an equal chance to run. A senior executive at the public relations group involved admitted: “The decisions were being made from Downing Street in London. This was done entirely to help Allawi get elected. He was only winning 7% of the vote when we were called in, and with the things we did we managed to push his vote up to nearly 14%. It wasn’t enough to keep him as prime minister of Iraq, but with that share of the vote we have managed to ensure he has a decent say in the running of the country.” The executive added: “We were not paid by the British government, I am sure of that. I think the funds for our work came from other sources, but the whole operation was kept very quiet. Blair could not be seen to be trying to influence the outcome of the elections, but I know all the decisions on how we pushed up Allawi’s vote came from Downing Street.” The final results of the January 30 elections showed Allawi collected 13.8% of the 8.56 million votes cast, well behind the 4.08 million votes that went to the United Iraqi Alliance led by religious cleric Al Sistani. However, Allawi’s final count of 1.17 million votes was almost twice what had been predicted before polling day. It is understood that a series of campaign strategies to help Allawi were drawn up by the public relations firm working with Lord Alli, a Labour peer. The 41-year-old is one of Britain’s most respected “brand builders” with years of media experience. He was one of the founders of Planet 24 Productions, a company behind some of the UK’s most successful entertainment shows, before working for media giant Carlton Media, and more recently for Chorion. At Chorion, as a non-executive director, Lord Alli has advised on building up brands in publishing and television. The executive added: “Lord Alli came to the meetings as did one other senior person from the British Labour party. We sent some of our own people out to meet them privately and just thrash around ideas. The brief we had was simply to do everything we could to get more votes for Allawi. I don’t think anyone seriously thought we could actually get him elected, but he was looking at just getting a few hundred thousand votes before this election. So it was a case of re-branding him and getting the message out to the Iraqi people that this guy had done a lot for them, and they should return the favour by voting for him.” The revelations could prove a severe embarrassment for Blair, who has been under increasing domestic pressure for the war in Iraq. Opposition parties have claimed that his use of force to remove Iraq’s previous leader Saddam Hussein was illegal. The executive at the public relations company added: “You can see why this wouldn’t look very good from a PR perspective. Many people claim he acted illegally to get rid of one Iraqi leader, and now here he is working behind the scenes to try and install another leader.” Some analysts in the West have argued that the results of the Iraqi election, with Shiite Muslims now the dominant political force, are “negative” for Britain and the US, as Iraq’s religious groups could form closer ties to neighbouring Iran. Lord Alli was not available for comment when contacted last week.

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