Well, today, after the initial announcement made the news, Allawi's party let the other shoe drop, urging a delay in the elections. Allawi himself appears to have used other party members to seperate himself from the decision, but he *IS* the head of his party.
In other words, it appears that the fix is in. The meeting itself seems to have been set up by Pachachi, Allawi, and the Kurds as a justification for not holding an election that they can't win. The hope is that they will be in a stronger position in the future. This, incidentally, sounds very consistant with expatriot Pachachi's beliefs.
"You have the secular Shiites who are the majority. . . The religious groups, whether Sunni or Shia, are better organized. They are organized because others are fragmented. The secularists are fragmented because they have different political beliefs. The religious groups are well organized, and they have financial resources, which give them an edge. . . I am trying myself actually with some others to bring all these groups together, in spite of their political differences. . . If you can get them into one sort of national front . . . then we can really enter the elections or the selection process well organized and pretty strong. So we can really face up to the fundamental religious groups."
Which is all fine and well, but you shouldn't delay democracy so you can bring about your idea of what it should be. Unfortunately, the actions of Allawi have done much to discredit Western democracy in Iraq. He's been as helpful to the cause of democracy in Iraq as Zarqawi has been to the cause of Iraqi resistance; both undermine otherwise legitimate movements.
Personally, I don't think that any delay should be legally allowed... and it might not be. If you look at those fighting for a delay in voting, their supporters have no reason to ask for a delay, as they are not greatly effected by the current instability in Iraq and should have no problem getting to the polls. Instead, they're fighting for a delay because they simply are not ready and cannot win.
There are hundreds of Iraqi political parties and factions; a distant minority of 17 is a drop in the bucket, and does not a majority make. For them to complain about elections is no more legitimate than the Iraqi Sunni parties who have decided to call the elections illegitimate. It would be hypocritical to listen to and make exceptions for Allawi and his supporters, but not to do the same for the Sunnis who feel like they're being railroaded.
Maybe the ultimate truth is that Iraq is just not ready for democracy. It never finished all the hard societal work to evolve towards it. They're no more ready for it than Germany was after WWI... arguably less. And yet, we've promised them and the world that elections is what we will give them, and we promised to give it to them by a set date. If we now reneg on that promise, Sistani will be pissed off, and so will 60% of the Iraqi population. For them, the election brings hope not only for self-rule to begin, but for the occupation of Iraq to soon end.
After Sadr backed down and chose to go legitimate, the past few months have seen a shift in the resistance towards one which is primarily Sunni-based. That has actually been advantageous to US, who have been able to "divide and conquer", destroying Fallujah without any widespread resistance from the Shi'ites. Delaying elections, however, would be seen as a betrayal not only by Sistani, but also by Sadr. It could greatly increase the level of general unrest throughout the whole country, and would put the pressure on Sistani to strongly oppose any delays. Either Sistani would have to bring his people out in the streets, or someone like Sadr would do it for him and look like a hero in the process, as Sistani has been seen by many as being silent while Fallujah was destroyed.
The big threat for the United States in Iraq isn't isolated resistance, but true Arab unity. While it seems that there should be a leader in Iraq who can unite the Shi'ite, the Sunni, and the nationalists, there doesn't appear to be one as yet... only a vacuum. The question is, will such a leader ever materialize?
***Update: 42 Iraqi -- primarily Shi'ite -- political parties respond to the request for delayed elections, saying that such a move would be illegal and would be a victory for the terrorists.
BBC is reporting that elections are going to go ahead as scheduled. ***