Iraqi elections

My immediate impulse is to be guardedly pleased with the seemingly good news of Iraq’s first true elections. It seems to tell me that the majority of Iraqis do not want to see the insurgents win (otherwise, why would they vote?), and that they really do crave this important freedom to choose their leaders.

On the other hand, Iraq is such a mess that no matter who wins, it’ll take a long time before we see any positive change. And, of course, the next government could take the country in an entirely unexpected direction and become another dictatorship. (Much stranger things have happened.)

Finally, I saw a clip (via Kos) from a 1967 NY Times article (unlinkable) that reminded me that one election does not a robust democracy make:

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Deja vu all over again, no? It’s something to think about, though I honestly believe the political situation in Iraq is diferent enough from Vietnam in 1967 to offer at least a glimmer of hope. For one, the Iraqis are more urbane and better educated than was the average Vietnamese, and most Vietnamese adored our perceived enemy Ho Chi Minh; in Iraq, the insurgents are supported by a minority (although the US occupation is opposed by a majority). The only thing I can say with certainty is that things are incredibly dicey right now.

We’ll see, right?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Yes, we’ll see… we’ll see who won, and I predict that whatever the new Iraqi government does, it won’t be entirely to the liking of the Bushoisie.

In fact, it’s not entirely inconceivable that a free and democratic Iraq — i.e. one dominated by fundamentalist and pro-Iranian Shia politicians — could one day find itself added back to the “axis of fearful countries” or whatever the correct term is these days.

January 31, 2005 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

We’re together on this one; my prediction is an eventual theocracy a la Iran (no pun intended with the words “a la“).

January 31, 2005 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

” my prediction is an eventual theocracy a la Iran”
It brings out a good point that democracy is not the solution for everything. In the above case, the democacy in Iraq may turn out to be “harmful” to its own people. In America, gay rights are being oppressed for the sake of “the Moral majority.”

January 31, 2005 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

Dear JR,

A smart democratic system also protects the rights of the minority; that’s what chekcs and balances, a republic as opposed to direct democracy and the rule of law are about. In some cases this becomes the protection of an old power structure (like the electoral college), but it’s a good rule of thumb when you are setting up your system of representative democracy.

Best,

Lisa

January 31, 2005 @ 10:24 pm | Comment

Right Richard, one election or two can’t defend a democracy. In realpolitik measure, if George Washington’s militia was not one ocean away from Britain, but one Taiwan strait away, then no matter how many elections were held they wouldn’t make America independent.

But Iraqis have a better chance than Vietnamese in 1967. In 60s and 70s it’s the Soviets weaponary and the Chinese military personnels fighting the Americans. Nowaday, even the sworn enemy of any election donated 1M for Iraq election, although they wish the insurgents can create a quagmire and distract US from elsewhere. The world is very different now.

February 1, 2005 @ 6:39 am | Comment

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