Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Prince of the People

Here’s an existential conundrum: how can you be a monarchist if you are not for re-instating the monarchy.

Here’s an even better one: how can you be the pretender to the throne and not be in favor of a return to monarchical rule?

This is what Iraq’s Sharif Ali bin Al-Hussein has to grapple with every morning as he irons his well-tailored shirts. Sharif Ali’s political vehicle recently changed its name from the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM) to the Constitutional Movement (CM) after the Iraqi people approved a constitution that re-emphasized Iraq’s republican character and banished any thoughts of restoring the monarchy, overthrown in 1958. The CMM's website is in need of an update, though.

His Royal Highness among the little people...

So Sharif Ali (…now Citizen Ali), a former bank clerk in London, has re-invented himself as a populist, and is running in second place on Ahmad Chalabi’s ‘569’ list. Sharif Ali used to be a member of the INC’s Leadership Council, but had a falling out with Chalabi after refusing to attend the Salahuddin conference in February 2003. At the time, Jalal Talabani quoted a verse of poetry (by Jawahiri) that insinuated that Sharif Ali could not attend the meeting in Northern Iraq because his mother deemed the place unsafe. That was mean thing to say, but pretty funny.

But Sharif Ali is not without personal bravery and gentlemanlike mannerisms; he was the only Iraqi politician to visit and stand by Ahmad Chalabi when the Iraqi police, as well as unidentified armed Americans, raided the latter’s home on May 20, 2004. He had done this after he and Chalabi had not been on speaking terms for over a year.

Sharif Ali received around 13,700 votes in the last elections (January 2005) when running on a platform of restoring the monarchy. There is at least one other rival contender for the throne that is supported by Sharif Ali’s kinsmen: the Hashemite royal family of Jordan.


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