Necessary, But Not Sufficient

January 30, 2005 Off By leigh

The reports from newswires indicate that despite the bloodshed, the Iraqi population has voted in higher numbers than expected.

The reports from newswires indicate that despite the bloodshed, the Iraqi population has voted in higher numbers than expected. Reports also included mention of near empty polling among largely Sunni areas and low turnout for expatriates, including riots among Australian and English expatriate Iraqis.

This is both a welcome and troubling event. That the Iraqi people as a whole voted expresses their brave desire for control over their affairs. However, the Shia and Kurd populations have now been fractured into sectarian and ethnic factions and are voting for their own interests. The lack of turnout of Sunni’s indicates those mainly responsible for the insurgency will have no reason to stop fighting. Furthermore, the vote by the Shia, Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmen now put the elected officials on notice of obligations to meet the needs of these increasingly separated factions.

Of note is that few voters know who they actually voted for, since the party lists were mainly secret (perhaps an entire list may be associated with an influential leader, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani) for fear of retribution. The voting process has hardly been monitored due to threats of violence, so it is unclear exactly how fair the election has been and how much manipulation by the installed government has been carried out. Hallmarks of Ohio?

Therefore it is important to understand the healthy, seemingly genuine, enthusiasm of the Iraqi people for involvement in their own governance (as expressed at the polls) to be a necessary, but not sufficient condition for democracy. The conflict prior to the election, caused by the U.S. illegal invasion, has had the functional effect of shrouding the democratic process. It has uncoupled the heartfelt desire of the Iraqi people for self-determination from the decision of who then finally wields votes in parliament.

This clearly parallels the U.S. election, manipulation of the voting process serves the elite interests and thwarts the people’s expressed democracy. The question then becomes to what degree the Iraqi people will stand for this usurpation. The U.S. electorate has a long history of having it’s true character filtered by a voting process designed to perpetuate the two-party state serving corporate interests. The electorate’s aspirations have been so pummelled that less than 60% of the population typically votes.

In contrast, the Iraqi people have survived several dictators installed by colonial regimes (Faisal by the British, Aref/al-Bakr by Syria, Saddam and Allawi by the CIA) and still expressed popularist uprising against these dictators (the Iraqi Communist party in 1947-48, General Qasim and the socialist Ba’athists in 1963, Marsh Arabs and Shia in 1991, and the current resistance to occupation, respectively). So it is unclear if the will of the people will be sapped by the knowledge they voted for unknown candidates and must then accept the final parliament, or if on finding their expectations unmet, they will increase their militancy.

It is unknown what the exact mix of nationalism, Saddamist Ba’athism, religious fundamentalism and opportunism is driving the insurgency – certainly any pronouncements by the installed Allawi government, the CPA, and Rumsfeld office can not be trusted. It could be the conflict will now only intensify in jockeying to dominate the final parliament and it’s ability to then grant “legitimacy” through a (yet to be determined) parliamentary process.