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Friday, December 16, 2005

A few items on the Iraqi elections
Roger L. Simon:
BIG LOSERS of the day so far: Howard Dean, Jack Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the reactionary, fuddy-duddy leadership of the Democratic Party. (To call them "liberals" is absurd because they have no ideology whatsoever.) How will they spin this? Of course the second big loser is the Mainstream Media - again without ideology, really.
The Economist (emphasis mine):
The best news, emphasised in Mr Bush’s speech, is the participation of the Sunni Arabs in the poll. Predominantly Sunni cities like Ramadi, which saw a paltry few thousand turn out when most Sunnis boycotted the January election, were completely different on Thursday. January's boycott was costly. With almost no Sunni deputies in parliament, the constitution was written largely over their heads of a group that is some 20% of Iraq’s population—though Sunni representatives were later invited into the process by the majority Shia Arabs (around 60% of the population) and the Kurds (some 20%). As a result, the Sunnis are none too keen on the document, which creates a highly federal Iraq that they fear could break apart. In the referendum on the constitution, held in October, Sunnis turned out in large numbers to vote against it. Though they nearly managed to defeat it, their participation was seen as an encouraging sign. That they have put their efforts into winning seats in this week’s election further suggests Sunni leaders have come to accept that the way forward is through the ballot box, not bombs.
Just two months ago my husband was saying we were succeeding in Iraq because
  • Sunni Iraqis say we are succeeding
  • Almost all Sunni political leaders are urging their followers to participate in the elections and vote against the draft constitution
  • If they thought the insurgency was winning, they’d consider the election irrelevant
  • Given the strong tendency to think one’s side is winning, the fact that the Sunnis are being urged to vote against the constitution is very significant
The election proved him right.

Lawrence Kaplan is optimistic:
In its essentials, the logic of the former was straightforward: Induce the Sunnis to surrender violence in favor of political participation and create a broad-based, cross-sectarian coalition that can govern Iraq effectively. Although yesterday's elections hardly guarantee that outcome, they do amount to its necessary precondition. Whether the aim can actually be achieved is up to the Iraqis.

In this regard, yesterday offered reason to hope. Having now moved beyond the mechanics of democracy--that is, the process of choosing leaders--Iraqis may also begin to move beyond a zero-sum brand of politics and toward the sort of compromises essential to a broader conception of democracy. The election offered this glimmer for a simple reason: Sunnis actually participated in it. Unlike January's election for a transitional assembly, which they boycotted, and June's referendum on the constitution, in which few Sunnis participated and then only to vote against it, millions of Sunnis turned out yesterday to vote for legislators who will serve a four-year term and approve a prime minister and president. That fact itself suggests an acknowledgment among Sunnis that either they join the political process or get left behind. Hence, the bitter and recalcitrant Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars encouraged its constituents to vote. Hence, too, Sunni insurgent groups like the Baathist Army of Iraq broke from past practice and declared they wouldn't target polling stations. With Sunnis voting by district and electing their own representatives, Sunni leaders will necessarily emerge within the political arena. This, in turn, should weaken the political appeal of the insurgency, or at the very least create cleavages between the community's politicians and its bombers.
No, The Husband and Lawrence didn't get together for lunch to discuss this, but read the rest of Kaplan's article.

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