Iraqi Bloggers Roundup

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Elections or no elections?

Two of the most interesting exchanges about Iraq this past week focused on the promised January elections. One was on the blog of our Egyptian friend, Big Pharaoh or GM and the other at ITM.

GM, who has consistently shown his support for the right of Iraqis and all Middle Easterners to enjoy democracy, posited his position and defended it. He argued for postponement, whereas ITM made the case for holding the elections on time, as promised. GM’s concern was that the security situation would make meaningful elections too difficult to pull off, and that they should be delayed.

I found the Pharaoh’s blog more interesting, because of the passionate response of his readers, who overwhelmingly disagreed. The debate continued over two successive postings and was even picked up on other Iraqi blogs. The reasons offered by the posters for why elections should proceed as planned, provide a little lesson in and of themselves about the history of the struggle of democracy and what democracy does to the will of a people.

I can't say that I disagree with any of the arguments offered, and since Haloscan comments have a short life, I’ve chosen to post highlights from the Pharaoh's readers here. They are worth recording for posterity. Some I have edited slightly to shorten them and/or correct typos and I have deliberately chosen to end the list with a quote from Finnpundit, as it contains a link which is a must read. Iraqi blog readers are geniuses when it comes to pointing to other websites with important supporting documentation, which broadens our understanding of the situation in Iraq. The fact that these illuminating responses were posted on an Egyptian blogger's site is also a powerful reminder that the world is watching - and learning - as Iraqis undertake their struggle for democracy:

Andromeda: "I realize it is tough swimming in a sea of anti-American propaganda every night and day, but there is absolutely no reason why elections cannot be held……Read up on the history of early democracies, and you will find that by today’s standards, these elections were far from perfect."

Jim Dearborn: "Elections are what is needed to stop the violence!!! There will continue to be insurgents and terrorists as long as people feel they have no say in their future. Waiting for peace before having elections is putting the cart before the horse. The only way to defeat terrorism is to give people a voice and a say in their future."

Kyla/California: "It always surprises me that people would assume that elections can't be held because of the terrorist…..We in this country held elections in the middle of a war for god sakes [referring to the American civil war]….. These elections must not be subverted by a few. PERIOD."

Al Superczynski: "Delay the elections for what reason? To wait until the terrorist thugs stop their attacks on Iraqi citizens? Golly gee, *that* would sure give terrorists a reason to opt for a peaceful solution...."

Iraqi: “The Iraqi election should go a head no matter whatever the enemy of Democracy say, and do to derail it ......surely would n't be perfect, still better than Saddam’s the 99.9% election !”

Andrea Baucero: “…if the elections were postponed, I think that the Iraqi interim government would lose much of its credibility”

Brian H.: “The Islamic parties will be humiliated and crushed. Every local election so far has left them with few or no representatives. And the elections are a declaration by, of, and for the Iraqi population of hope, courage, and independence.”

Shari: “It occurred to me that the insurgents may unintentionally influence the election in a positive way. You would think the more death and destruction the terrorists try to inflict on Iraqis in the name of Islam, the more likely Iraqis would be to vote in moderate candidates, avoiding those who firmly support Islamic law. Since the elected body will be in charge of getting the constitution written, the more moderate members the better."

Tina: “There MUST be elections, because in order for the government to be seen as legitimate worldwide, they must be backed by an elected Parliament.”

Iraqi: “The election should go a head, no matter whatever the obstacles there and would be put to derail it. Iraq becoming the battle ground for the Arab and Islamist defecency [?] to settle their score on the expense of the innocent Iraqi lives!…..The Arabs and Islamist destructions to Iraq will back fire on them sooner or later !”

Foobarista: “Deferring (or hopefully cancelling) elections is the strategic objective of the terrorists. If there are no elections, the terrorists can pose as "legitimate insurgents" and the "true" voice of the Iraqi people. Once legitimate elections have taken place, the terrorists are shown to be simply bandits and killers. Zarqawi himself said as much in a captured letter about a year ago. IMO, you are mistaking the chicken for the egg here: elections can and do often take place in hostile environments, and much of the hostility itself is due to overwhelming legitimacy that acceptable and fair elections confer on the government. So, elections _have_ to happen on schedule.”

Seow, Singapore: “My friends, you must understand that elections are not only for Iraq, but for France, Germany, Russia, China and any anti-war coalition. If you want the U.S. to stay, we must have a legitimate government to invite the U.S. to stay."

Don: “They are training an Iraqi army. In April there were only 5000, now there are 70,000. By November they will be ready for an offensive into the Sunni Triangle to take back Fallujah and the other cities. But why would that force fight? For the Americans? Very doubtful. For their own democratically-elected government (even if that government is not in place yet)? Much more likely I think. It's a matter of legitimacy of the Iraq government. For the US it's important that the US keeps its promises to the Iraqi people, and is seen to be doing so.”

squatch: "Elections are not meant to provide security nor are they meant to defeat the so-called resistance. They are symbolic, and meaningfully so……FREE PEOPLE have elections. Yes, the security situation in a small geographic area - yet dense in population - is poor…..Doesn't matter. FREE PEOPLE vote. Iraqis need to have a personal relationship with the idea of freedom. That is what is achieved through elections…..If you consider (as I am sure you’re able) the psychology of people who have been brutalized by their government for decades, casting a ballot to claim their voice in government - even in a situation that is much, much less than ideal - can only strengthen the average Iraqi citizen…….And right now, the average Iraqi citizen could use the strength.”

Finnpundit: "GM, the New York Times columnist David Brooks has an excellent article in today’s paper just on this topic. The El Salvadorean example is something worthwhile studying in the Arab World."

- Louise, the Iraqi blog addict -