"The sun'll come out, Samarra"

Members of the Bush administration are excitedly talking up the free and open elections they say are going to take place in Iraq come January 2005. At long last, three in every five Iraqi citizens will enjoy the same voting freedoms our own nation confers on every adult Caucasian without an arrest record or outstanding library fines.

If the election procedure follows the U.S. model to the letter, it stands to reason that voters will have plenty of candidates to choose from. Some of these are clear favorites; we're talking household names like Imad Kathom Yousif and Khaled "Sparky" Majeed. But what of the lesser-known figures on the ballot – the metaphorical Lyndon LaRouches and Lenora Fulanis of the contest? To keep the playing field level, we've dug up background information on some of the third- (and fourth-, and fifth-, and even 16th-) party candidates who will be vying for seats in the national assembly.

Name: Ahmad Akbar al-Alechem
Nickname: "The Holy Hammer"
Party affiliation: New Ba'athist Party
Platform: Don't let the "New Ba'athist" tag fool you. This old-school cleric is pinning his hopes squarely on the enduring appeal of religious fundamentalism. In his campaign literature and whistle-stop jeremiads, he has consistently argued that Iraq's future hinges on the instantaneous, violent expulsion of the Western infidels who are currently defiling this most sacred of lands with their obscene presence. Also, he'd like to see more money for schools.
Has earned endorsement of: Allah (via divine revelation – honest!)
Current status in polls: 36 percent, though substantially higher in areas with a greater incidence of beheadings

Name: Ali Ali Al-Oxenfri
Nickname: "The Spook"
Party affiliation: Sons of the Forgotten Party
Platform: In a free Iraq, all things are made new. And nobody knows it better than the country's most famous political prisoner, who spent 29 years shackled to a wall in one of Saddam's dankest torture chambers, only to be miraculously set free at age 71 when a coalition bomb struck the hospital next door. Predictably, he's running as an "outsider" candidate, one whose decades-long separation from society has indemnified him against all potential conflicts of interest. Here's one up-and-comer who knows nothing about shady backroom wheeling and dealing – let alone fax machines or spray cheese.
Has earned endorsement of: Iyad Allawi, who's not supposed to play favorites but can't help calling Al-Oxenfri "so damn cute" in fanzine interviews
Current status in polls: 16 percent, indicating that nobody gives a fuck what Iyad Allawi thinks

Name: Hashim Al Nama Kadel
Nickname: "Mr. Three Percent"
Party affiliation: Fiscal Independence Party
Platform: The darling of economic conservatives, this dark-horse candidate is calling for a drastic overhaul of the Iraqi income-tax system, which he'd like to see shifted from a progressive model to a flat tax on all retail purchases. Debate opponents have consistently pointed out that Iraq has no income tax, making his crusade superfluous at best. "Better safe than sorry," the admirably on-message, certifiably insane candidate is known to reply.
Has earned endorsement of: Steve Forbes, Doug Guetzloe, Uncle Scrooge McDuck
Current status in polls: 3 percent, oddly enough

Name: Baasma Aseel Naayef
Nickname: "Cheryl"
Party affiliation: Little Chrysanthemums of Steel Party
Platform: Though she's the most outspoken advocate for women's rights currently in the race, candidate Naayef says she's disinterested in bringing Iraqi females the limited benefits of "frumpish" '60s-style feminism. It's a more modern and radical form of emancipation she's after, so she's based her campaign on her readiness to stand up for the interests of lipstick lesbians, porn-site operators and anybody who's willing to admit that it's still kinda awesome when the dude pays for dinner.
Has earned endorsement of: Camille Paglia
Current status in polls: 67 percent among women whose spouses allowed them to answer the doorbell

Name: Nabraas Yazen
Nickname: "Must-See Nabraas"
Party affiliation: Safe Viewing Party
Platform: A genuine one-issue man, this community activist and former palace pool cleaner believes that all of Iraq's problems can be solved through the capture and systematic torture of Mayim Bialik, TV's Blossom.
Has earned endorsement of: Joey Lawrence, Ted Wass, Pat Buchanan
Current status in polls: 100 percent in homes with TVs

Name: Skyler Salaam bin Carrington
Nickname: "Golden Boy"
Party affiliation: Rush Chairmen for a New Iraq
Platform: In calling for a new era of stepped-up cooperation between Iraq and the United States, the smooth-talking bin Carrington isn't just trying to remake the national character: He's reflecting his own unconventional parentage. Born to an American father and an Iraqi mother, he grew up in the Hamptons but spent his summers interning at a brokerage house in Tikrit, affording him a uniquely progressive view of transglobal enterprise. Only at age 21 did he learn that he owes his very existence to a corporate wife-swapping program, which his father's firm had instituted to foster a deeper understanding of its Middle Eastern partners.
Has earned endorsement of: All major multinationals; the editors of The Economist and FHM
Current status in polls: 55 percent, though Dad predicts a figure closer to 75 percent when all checks clear

Name: Ahmed Mohammed Mushaan
Nickname: "Ol' Hands-Off"
Party affiliation: Iraqi Libertarian Liberation Front
Platform: Taking his cues from the playbook of America's Libertarian movement, Mushaan has emerged as Iraq's leading proponent of limited government. Under his watch, the national assembly would abrogate all responsibility for the public welfare, withdraw from international agreements and repeal most internal laws as unconstitutional. Rules on gun ownership would be whittled into nothingness, parks and museums would be deeded to the private sector, and the maintenance of the social order would be left entirely up to the day-to-day whims of the citizenry.
Current status in polls: A surprisingly strong 89 percent, with most respondents saying that the Iraq Mushaan is calling for couldn't be much worse than what they have now.