January 27, 2005

The Iraq Election


This cartoon is from March 2004 and is in our book, Black & White World II.

This weekend, Iraqis will brave death just to vote. Our hope is that no more Iraqis or coalition forces are harmed trying to exercise a freedom that we take for granted.

We also hope that the election results will not be favorable to the Shiite religious parties. Politically secular candidates are in the running and competitive, including interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. President Bush should never have allowed the possiblity of a democratically established theocracy, but that's the reality.

As we noted earlier this week, though the Shiite parties announced that their platform for governing Iraq would be secular and not an Islamic theocracy, there is reason to doubt their claims. For instance, the United Iraqi Alliance includes candidates who are followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the Islamist cleric who declared that 9/11 was "miracle from God" and whose militia killed American soldiers in Najaf. Other major parties in the Alliance are ruling Basra in a manner reminiscent of the Taliban.

But the above article also reports that some Iraqis see that Islamists are not the answer to Saddam:

"Don't listen to what people tell you -- look at what they do on the ground," said Anwar Muhammad Ridha al-Jabor, 40, director of Al Nahrain Radio in Basra.

She believes, based on her call-in radio show and polling conducted by her station, that people in the southern provinces are fed up with authoritarian rulers and are not impressed with a year and a half of Islamist rule.

"People just got rid of Saddam," she said. "Now they want to be free, and not be threatened by anyone, including the Islamic groups."

We're rooting for Iraqis like Anwar. Here are more Iraqis who'll be speaking out as the election take place this weekend:

-- Friends of Democracy: Ground-level election news from the people of Iraq
-- Iraq the Model
-- Democracy in Iraq

UPDATE -- January 28: This editorial by Amil Taheri explains why the issue of theocracy (among others) will remain an issue after the election: Iraq Votes: The Issues. (Via TIA Daily)

Mosque and State: Some radical Shiite and Sunni groups want Islam declared to be not only the official state religion, but also the sole source of legislation. This is opposed by others across the political spectrum. The terror campaign has prevented fundamentalist Sunni groups from forging an alliance with their Shiite counterparts in a common quest for an Islamic government. And the bitter anti-Shiite tone of the insurgency has prevented Shiite fundamentalists from advertising their true colors in the campaign. ...

Women's Rights: Thanks to U.S. pressure, all electoral lists consist of 30 percent women candidates; at least a quarter of the seats in the Assembly are likely to go to women. Most Islamist parties and some tribes oppose this, and the quotas imposed in favor of women in government departments. Even more serious is their objection to giving women equal rights in matters of marriage, divorce and child custody. Secularist parties, however, believe the measures must go further in favor of women. Reviewing the laws on such issues of private life will be one of the early tasks of the new parliament. While many fear that new laws will be more reactionary, women's organizations and secularist parties are determined to fight any such backtracking. ...

Foreign Policy: Always a hot topic in Arab politics, it will be even more so in Iraq in this period of transition. Some want Iraq to withdraw from the Arab League and even OPEC and to seek a special relationship with the U.S.-led NAFTA. Others want to seek the leadership of the Arabs with a message of democratization. Some want Iraq to recognize Israel; others strongly oppose that move. Tehran's mullahs, operating through their clients and sympathizers inside Iraq, will do all they can to goad Iraq towards a "third-worldist" and anti-American posture. The United States and its allies, meanwhile, will work hard to persuade the new Iraq that it is in its best interest to jettison the prejudices and misconceptions that have passed for Arab foreign policy over the past five decades.

Posted by Forkum at January 27, 2005 10:32 PM