The Iraqi Election "Bait and Switch":
Faulty Poll Will Not Bring Peace or US Withdrawal
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #17
The Iraqi Election "Bait and Switch":
Faulty Poll Will Not Bring Peace or US Withdrawal
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #17
President Bush was correct when he asserted on 2 December 2004 that it was "time for the Iraqi citizens to go to the polls."1 Indeed, it is long past time. Elections should have occurred a year or so after the fall of the Hussein regime. But the fact that they are overdue does not mean that an adequate foundation for meaningfully democratic elections has been laid. It has not. Unfortunately, the balloting due to take place on 30 January will not fulfill the promise of democracy nor satisfy the Iraqi passion for self-determination. For these reasons, it cannot bring peace. It is more likely to exacerbate civil strife.
Much attention has been focused on the problem of Sunni participation in the election, and rightly so. The election is supposed to figure centrally in the process of uniting the Iraqi nation and formulating its constitution. It is supposed to serve and embody a process of consensus building. But the abstention of any substantial part of the Sunni (or any other) Iraqi community - for any reason - undoes this central purpose and indicates that the necessary pre-conditions for the election have not been established. To proceed regardless of this fact is to revise the primary reason for conducting elections. And, indeed, the discourse on the election has shifted to place greater emphasis on its role as a weapon in the war of will and propaganda with Iraq's insurgents. Thus, delay is called tantamount to defeat. This raises the question of what comes first in deciding the policy on elections: the requirements of democracy or those of counter-insurgency?
1.1. Bait and Switch
The problems with the Iraqi election process do not end with the Sunni community. Relevant to all of Iraq's communities, the process as currently designed is little more than a "bait and switch" ploy.
The "bait" is the promise that by casting ballots Iraqis can reclaim their government and their sovereignly. With regard to governance, opinion polls have made clear what most Iraqis would like to see happen straight away. The polls leave no doubt that a majority (1) have lost confidence in the foreign-appointed Interim Government and (2) now want a quick end to the US military occupation and to the overbearing American influence that it undergirds. To put the matter bluntly: they want the United States out and do not trust the governing authorities it has put in place. Few sentiments unite Sunni and Shiite Arab majorities as well as these two. And these expressed sentiments can serve as a touchstone or litmus test for how well the elections fulfill their democratic promise. (See Addendum 1: Iraqi attitudes on the coalition, occupation, force withdrawal, and appointed Iraqi governments.)
Regardless of the balance of opinion among Iraqis - which is increasingly anti-occupation - the election will probably lead to a reassertion of something resembling the current status quo. This constitutes the "switch": Most Iraqis will go to the polls expecting to achieve one thing while actually legitimizing a different outcome. The advantages conveyed to select candidates and parties by the US mission will prove to be a pivotal input in deciding Iraq's future.
Certainly, the new national assembly will have a more Shiite complexion than the bodies that preceded it -- as is preferred by a majority of Iraqis. However, the government this assembly finally produces - that is, the Presidency Council, the Prime Minister, and the "power ministries" - will harken back to previous governing arrangements. The new executive bodies will prominently involve many of the same expatriate leaders and parties that the United States has advanced since it took control of Iraq. And, of course, the US occupation will not end. Indeed, no firm, near-term withdrawal date will be set. Most likely, the new government will link withdrawal loosely to the seating of a permanent government - a year or more in the future. But any "withdrawal schedule" that does not require that preparations for withdrawal get underway soon can only be regarded as tenuous or prospective.
One need not hypothesize a sudden and radical change of heart among the Iraqi electorate to foresee these outcomes. As explained below, they are determined by (1) structural features of the electoral process itself, (2) the circumstances in which the election is occurring, and (3) the broader balance of power in Iraq, which remains a country occupied by an actively partisan foreign power.
In short: both the structure and context of the political process will likely frustrate the will of the people. The election as currently designed is not merely "flawed." It is part of a counterfeit process that will impede the development of a truly sovereign and stable Iraq.
For the Sunni community, in particular, the democratic promise of elections has already been negated. For them, not even the bait is savory. As explained below, the elections offer the Sunnis a Hobson's choice -- ie. no choice at all: either participate and (thereby) legitimize a process that does not offer a solid guarantee of adequate representation in parliament or do not participate and risk an even less appealing outcome: decisive Shiite control of the Iraqi state.
1.2. Democracy and legitimation
The election will succeed in one important respect: it will confer greater legitimacy on the Bush administration's project in Iraq. This will allow a more vigorous prosecution of the counter-insurgency war.
The legitimizing effect of the electoral exercise will rest on a simple misperception: Balloting is the most conspicuous element of the democratic process and can be easily mistaken for the whole of it. The world and the media will be enthralled when millions of Iraqis go to the polls on 30 January 2005 to cast votes in the country's first multiparty legislative election since 1953. Some Iraqi voters will have to fight their way, literally, to the ballot box; and some will be killed in the process. This mass expression of democratic passion will be proffered and broadly accepted -- at least outside Iraq -- as a realization of democracy's promise. But to judge the true worth of the event requires us to pay attention to a subtler issue: Will the balloting and the government it produces fairly represent the balance of interests and opinion in Iraqi society?
Inside Iraq, optimism will initially greet the election's conclusion, but it will soon sour. Outside Iraq, the gains for the Bush administration policy may be more lasting. Many of the state and institutional opponents of the war and occupation - France, Germany, and the United Nations - may see an opportunity to "honorably" make peace with the American project. As the US congressional assault on UN General Secretary Kofi Annan illustrates, Washington has kept the price of opposition uncomfortably high.2 The balloting may also fundamentally reshape the media's perception of events in Iraq.
In brief: the election will be a triumph of international legitimation, if not one of democratic practice.
In the sections that follow we examine:
2. Tilting the field of play2.1. The fog of democracy
For all Iraqi communities, the immediate outcome of the 30 January ballot will be significantly shaped by two factors:
All Iraqis will choose among a startling 98 political entities on the national ballot. These include 9 coalitions, 64 parties, and 25 stand-alone individuals. These will be distinguished on the ballot by a number, symbol, slogan, and the name of either the coalition, party, or individual. All told, there are more than 7,000 candidates for the 275-seat assembly. Of course, the vast majority of candidate names will not appear on the ballot. Most of them have places on the coalition and party lists, which are not readily available to the public. Thus, few Iraqis will be aware of more than a handful of the candidates they are choosing among.
More critically, there has been insufficient time -- one month -- to meaningfully distinguish among the 98 separate lists or "entities" with regard to their programs and ideologies. There has been little effective debate to challenge the claims and self-presentation of the contending parties. Given such an over-crowded field, attaining even basic name recognition will be difficult for most of the contending entities. For inexperienced voters confronted with a ballot offering 98 choices, simply finding and accurately selecting the candidate list that they support may prove challenging.
To succeed, candidates must cut through the fog that binds this election - and do so quickly. Who will pull ahead of the pack? Those who already enjoy name recognition, media pull, and sizable field organizations to drum their symbols, slogans, and ballot numbers into the minds of prospective supporters.
2.2. The advantages of the favored expatriate parties
2.3. The differential impact of poor security
The security situation also affects different parties differently. The likely result of poor security is not merely a suppressed turnout, but also one that is badly skewed.9 Apart from the issue of turnout, some parties will be better able than others to work around the limits imposed by poor security. Candidates who already hold government positions, for instance, have superior access to security services, which facilitate their movement.
Generally speaking, lack of security has impeded open campaigning, rendering the conduct of mass rallies and neighborhood mobilizations almost impossible.10 This makes other avenues of voter mobilization much more important. These alternative avenues include appeals from the pulpit, mobilization of party cadre, reliance on the mass media and telecommunications, and campaigning inside the corridors of government, security services, and other public institutions (including the civil society organizations established by the occupation). Thus, Prime Minister Allawi's easy and frequent access to the media takes on added significance. Counterbalancing this -- in what might be described as a contest between the media and the mosque - is the support that religious parties receive from the pulpit.
Finally, election security varies geographically in ways that imposes differential burdens on the competing parties. Obviously, security is stronger in Shiite and Kurdish strongholds. The implications of this are explored below, in the sections on "The Sunni Problem". But it is also worth noting that Iraqi voters living outside the country are not constrained by the country's security woes.
Due to their accumulated advantages, the expatriate parties will be able to throughly dominate the 30 January election, much as they dominated the August 2004 Iraqi National Conference -- a putatively "grassroots" affair meant to counterbalance the interim government. (The National Conference experience provides a lens on the power and stratagems of the expatriate parties. Unfortunately, the event escaped broad scrutiny. See Addendum 2: A Forewarning -- The Iraqi National Conference, August 2004.)
2.4. Expatriates triumphant
The Iraqi expatriate organizations - including Islamist ones - have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the US occupation. Their special prerogatives and quick rise to predominance over local rivals in post-Saddam Iraq are due to US largesse. In turn, the privileged Islamist organizations have helped mediate and contain Islamic opposition to the occupation - with the expectation that they will eventually break free of the coalition and attain true state power. Some tribal-based expatriate leaders, such as IGI interim president Ghazi Al-Yawar, occupy a similar position.
It is only among the secular-oriented expatriate groups that the United States could hope to find genuine supporters of its vision of a neo-liberal, free market state aligned with America and supporting its regional objectives. Relative to the Islamists, these groups have weak grassroots ties. This makes them more reliably dependent on the US coalition, but also less able to carry the country. An important objective of the United States during the interim period has been to develop the base and organizational strength of those secular groups that are amenable to US plans for regional transformation. This it has pursued through USAID and NED programs and by giving them positions in government, as noted above.
The association of the expatriate organizations with the occupation is double-edged - a source of influence and power, but also public disapprobation. However, while several parties have participated in one or another of the occupation governments, only one electoral list is broadly perceived as representing the current government: Ayad Allawi's "Iraqi List", which draws heavily on the Iraqi National Accord.
There are three other major electoral lists that are led by expatriates who served at one time or another as leaders in the occupation governments:
Other Iraqis - some expatriate and some not -- who have served in the US-appointed governments include leading candidates of the Kurdish Alliance list, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the People's Union (Communist Party) list, the Iraqi National Movement and Civil Society Alliance list, the Patriotic and Democratic Party, and the Iraqi National Democratic Coalition.
Most of these have maintained greater distance from US policies than has Allawi, occasionally opposing them. Indeed, the Iraqi Islamic Party is boycotting the election and both Adnan Pachachi, leader of the Assembly of Independent Democrats, and Naseer al-Chadarchi, leader of the Patriotic and Democratic Party, have spoken out against its timing. Nonetheless, the United States would probably find acceptable any government coalition incorporating these parties -- so long as the secularists are well represented (especially those aligned with Allawi).
It has been Bush administration policy to hedge its bets by lending support to an array of individuals and organizations that it considers "moderate" and "pragmatic". The measure of their pragmatism is their willingness to abide occupation for an indeterminate period - ie. "for as long as it takes." Opposition, even obstreperous opposition, to discrete US policies is manageable, as long as it is peaceful and does not tip over into "rejections". Indeed, a governing coalition that incorporates non-rejectionist opposition voices has distinct benefits: it can absorb some of the dissent in Iraq society and will appear more independent of the United States (and, hence, more legitimate).
For several reasons (explored below), the administration believes that it can achieve its policy goals across a broad range of likely electoral outcomes. The key immediate questions for the administration are: Will the new governing coalition abide occupation? Who will be Prime Minister? And who will command the most important ministries: Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Oil.
2.5. Likely electoral outcomes and their significance
Close cooperation among the expatriate organizations at the core of the three big winning lists provides the best opportunity for controlling the Assembly. These organizations are the two Kurdish parties, Allawi's Iraqi National Accord, al-Dawa Party, and SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq). They have a history of working together and they can count on fairly disciplined blocs of votes in the Assembly. However, in order to control a reliable two-thirds of the Assembly and build a government, they will have to reach out to other organizations -- and former partners are to be preferred over new ones. These might include "The Iraqis Party," led by IGI interim president Ghazi Al-Yawar; the "Assembly of Independent Democrats," led by Adnan Pachachi, former member of the IGC rotating presidency; and, Naseer al-Chadarchi's "Patriotic and Democratic Party."
The fate of Ahmed Al-Chalabi is uncertain. He and his Iraqi National Congress lead the Shiite Political Council which is part of the UIA list. By virtue of linking up with the Shiite Islamic parties, his Iraqi National Congress may gain firm control of 10 Assembly seats. But he is disliked by many of the members of the prospective coalition and has lost favor with the United States.
At any rate: former government and expatriate parties will emerge from the election with a commanding control of the National Assembly. The advance of the Shiites will not be as surprising as will be the perseverance of Allawi. And these outcomes may not sit well with either the Iraqi electorate or the more than 6,000 candidates who will lose their bids for election -- most of them losing quite badly.
2.6. An election bound to breed suspicion
The structural bias of the electoral system, as explained above, and the effects of poor security will give losing candidates and the Iraqi electorate reason enough to challenge the election result. Other circumstances may prompt an even more extreme reaction: feelings that the election was literally stolen. Several unusual features of the electoral process will feed such suspicions:
Election sceptics will find further fuel for their suspicions in the revelation of CIA plans to covertly assist Washington's favored candidates and parties. (Under pressure from some Democratic Party members of Congress, the White House agreed in October to scale back these efforts.)13
2.7. The road not taken: essential features of a democratic electoral process in Iraq
The 30 January election may succeed in enhancing the legitimacy of the Iraq occupation, but it will fail to accurately reflect the will of the Iraqi people, bring the country together, quiet dissent, or channel dissent along avenues of peaceful political compromise. All of this might have been accomplished had the original Coalition Provisional Authority structured the electoral process differently and had it addressed Sunni concerns more deftly. The problem of the Sunni insurgency and its effects are addressed below. As for the problems of structural bias in the election process: these could have been avoided had the CPA respected the following principles and imperatives:
3. After the ballot: the limits of Iraqi freedom3.1. Detour on the way to forming a government
Soon after being seated, the new National Assembly will turn to selecting a Presidency Council, Prime Minister, and a Council of Ministers. Much of the effective power of the new government will reside in these positions.
The process by which the Presidency Council and government ministers will be selected is a complicated one. And its first and most important step -- selection of the Presidency Council - is not fully articulated in the Transitional Administrative Law. This provides an opportunity for the adoption of ad hoc procedures. There is also an opportunity here for outside actors to apply pressure. As a result, the already tenuous link between "the popular will" and national governance will be further attenuated.
The entire set of executive positions - the Presidency Council, the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers - will be subject to backroom negotiations among the big parties. The agreement on the Presidency Council probably will be part of a package deal encompassing all the top executive positions. Gaining confirmation of these choices by the entire National Assembly will depend on how well the leading organizations - most them expatriate - can discipline their members' voting behavior.
3.2. Factors weighing on the formation of a government
Certainly, leaders of the big parties will each try to advance their favorites when brokering the top government positions. But all are operating within a set of conditions and concerns that will weigh on their decisions.
We can summarize these concerns in terms of four imperatives that will preoccupy overlapping subsets of Assembly members: keep the country together, contain the insurgency, prevent civil war, and prevent domination by any one community. In responding to these imperatives, the Assembly must take into consideration several overarching realities:
Iraq's seemingly intractable woes and divisions give America considerable leverage in dealing with Iraq's new Assembly - as does America's powerful position inside the country. These realities and the fact that the major Shiite Islamic parties probably will not control an effective majority, will push party leaders toward a compromise government that resembles the last one -- as the United States prefers -- but with Shiite religionists in more prominent roles.
3.3. US military withdrawal: a moving goal post
Regardless of who comes to occupy Iraq's executive positions, America's key concern will be maintaining its own prerogatives in the country. Foremost, this means allowing the occupation to continue until "security is established", or "until Iraqi security forces can stand on their own," or "until a permanent government takes office". All of these formulations, even the last one, are fairly open-ended.
The earliest date that a permanent government can take office is January 2006 - assuming that the transition government can compose a constitution that passes muster with the Iraqi electorate. If it cannot, then the election of a permanent government could be delayed six months, one year, or even longer. And, of course, once a permanent government takes power, it can choose to reverse the decision regarding US withdrawal. A year's delay means a year to affect this outcome. In the meantime, a false "compromise" is possible: the Bush administration can agree to soon begin reducing its presence from the current 150,000+ soldiers - as it must do at any rate.
3.4. America's enduring influence
While the Bush administration obviously prefers some Iraqi electoral outcomes to others, the United States will be able to make its influence felt in the country regardless of who leads it. America's enduring influence in Iraq rests on the following building blocks:
The new Iraqi government could decide to terminate or cut back the US mission -- at great cost and with some difficulty. But America's influence is also felt through structures and laws put in place by the former Coalition Provisional Authority, for instance:
Because Iraq remains under a UN mandate, these legal interventions are not so easily set aside. The Iraq judiciary, as rebuilt and stocked by the CPA, is more independent of the other branches of government than is the case even in the United States. Any effort by the Iraqi government to step outside the procedures established by the CPA could prompt a constitutional crisis and might put the new government in violation of the UN mandate. This could establish a rationale for outside intervention.
4. The Sunni problem
Sunni disaffection with the electoral process predates the recent violence. It is not merely a reaction to the insurgency, but also a stimulus to it. And the reason is not hard to discern:
The election process and governance structure defined by occupation authorities in June 2004 do not offer Sunni regions a guarantee of representation in government proportionate to their population share.
For Sunnis the most worrisome possibility is that the Shiite majority will gain decisive, intractable control of the Iraqi state, giving them a capacity to impose a dictatorship of the (slight) majority. Other minority groups share the Sunnis concerns, but only the Kurds and Sunnis constitute minorities large enough to threaten the integrity of the Iraqi state. And the Kurds have made a separate peace. Mitigating Kurdish concerns - for now - are several circumstances: (1) The Transitional Administrative Law guarantees the Kurds an autonomous region for the transition period, (2) Their regional structures, party organizations, and militias are the best organized in the nation, and (3) They enjoy the closest relationship with the United States.
4.1. Local power and single district elections
The Transitional Administrative Law has some provisions to assure power sharing among Iraq's main ethnic groups, as explained below. But the TAL incorporates other measures that increase the risk of under-representation facing Iraq's minority communities.
Especially disadvantageous is the decision to treat all Iraq as a single election district. This makes it quite possible that disproportionately few seats will go to parties or candidates based in Sunni areas, for instance. Unlike the practice in the United States (and most other democracies), the new arrangement in Iraq does not root assembly seats to geographic subdivisions of the country.14 (In Iraq, as in many countries, the distribution of ethnic groups varies geographically).
Theoretically, Iraq's system of single-district proportional representation would allow minority groups to capture a share of Assembly seats proportionate to their share of the national population. But this assumes that the rate of voter turnout among the nation's regions and ethnic communities is equal. If it is not - due to regional security problems, differences in voter mobilization capabilities, differences in access to voting places, or other factors - Sunni areas could find themselves severely under-represented in government. (Of course, the majority community would also face the possibility of under-representation, but its potential impact would be much less. While the majority group would risk the possible loss of majority control in the Assembly, minorities would risk seeing their power reduced to insignificance. It is much easier to live with one of these outcomes than with the other.)
It is important to recognize that the dynamics of ethnic relations in Iraq involve the intersection of ethnicity and locality: there are ethnic regions. This makes the potential impact of under-representation greater, while also making the reaction to it potentially more powerful. Ethnic regions can be left to sink into widespread privation and underdevelopment; they also can become impenetrable bastions of insurgency, fueled by a combination of localism and ethnic identity. The liberal democratic remedy to the alienation of such regions, at least in the realm of governance, is to guarantee a set level of local representation in parliament. This would require an electoral system based on multiple electoral districts, each with a set number of seats.
A system of representation based on multiple geographic districts would guarantee a minimum of representation for residents of each district (or "state" in the US context). Combined with a requirement that candidates reside in the districts they propose to represent, this would indirectly mitigate ethnic concerns by ensuring that all representation is locally based. Whether 100 percent of Sunnis turned out to vote or 10 percent, the number of Assembly representatives coming from Sunni areas would be the same. This approach would not literally guarantee that only Sunnis won those seats, but it would greatly reduce the likelihood of Sunni under-representation.
The principal provision in the TAL for preventing domination by any one of Iraq's communities is the three-member Presidency Council, which must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. Although the "two-thirds rule" lowers the likelihood that a Presidency Council will be selected without significant Sunni support, it does not rule it out. And considerable power hangs in the balance. For Sunnis, the two-thirds rule is a slim reed - especially given that the single-district electoral system does not tie any set number of seats to Sunni areas. While comprising 20 percent of the population, the Sunni community could easily find itself with a lower percentage of Assembly seats. The worst case scenario for Sunnis - which is quite plausible - would combine two features: fewer than 20 percent of the Assembly seats in Sunni hands and a Presidency Council disliked by a strong majority of them.
4.2. The price of national unity
While the current arrangement fails to guarantee that Sunni areas will be represented in proportion to their share of the population, there are good reasons to argue that Sunni and Kurdish areas should have been offered parliamentary representation actually exceeding their population share. This approach to nation formation would resemble one adopted by the most successful democracy on earth: the United States.
Key to the creation and development of the United States was the decision to allot representation in ways that limited the population-based power of the bigger colonies (later, states). In a nation divided by regional interests and cultures, there was no other peaceful way to induce "the small" to form a union with "the large".
Thus today, Rhode Island, with a population only 5 percent as large as that of Texas, has 12 percent as many electoral votes as Texas, 6 percent as much power in the House of Representatives, and equal power in the Senate. For small states, this type of arrangement constitutes a hedge against the "dictatorship of the big". For all states, it can be viewed as the price of national unity. The hope is that a country's disparate parts, once brought together as a single nation, might through their daily intercourse evolve toward "a more perfect union." Such arrangements can seem anachronistic and even retrograde in countries that have achieved high levels of national integration -- but they remain relevant in situations characterized by deep division.
How might this insight have been applied to Iraq? While seventy percent of the nation's assembly seats might have been allocated to the provinces in proportion to their population, thirty percent might have been allotted equally among three regional clusters regardless of their populations: the Sunni-majority provinces, the Shiite majority provinces, and the Kurdish majority provinces. Within each cluster, the seats would then have been assigned to provinces in accord with relative population size. The effective result would have been an increase in the probable parliamentary power of the Sunni and Kurdish communities.
A system that offered minority areas greater than proportional representation would not have been unusual in the experience of post-conflict and transitional societies -- although in the case of Iraq it probably would have faced Shiite opposition. Still a modest adjustment along these lines might have been negotiable. At any rate, the CPA proved itself willing and able to impose other innovative and controversial measures, notably: the rule requiring that 25 percent of parliament members be women. As a result of this initiative, the Iraqi parliament will have a higher proportion of women than does the US Congress: 25 percent versus 15. This cutting-edge measure not only challenged the conventions of many tribalists and Islamic fundamentalists, it probably gave a distinct electoral advantage to secular parties. A similar degree of flexibility with regard to minority representation would have helped avert the present impasse.
4.3. De-Baathification, insurgency, and Sunni electoral participation
Among the factors that have fed the insurgency were the large-scale dismissal of civil servants at the beginning of the occupation, the demobilization of the Iraqi army and police, and the broad-brush practice of "de-Baathification".15 Some de-Baathification measures affect electoral participation and these probably have contributed to Sunni disaffection with the elections.16
The de-Baathification policy, promulgated in May 2003, initially banned all but the lowest level of party members from employment in the public sector (which is quite large in Iraq). It also banned all full members from the top three levels of management in all public institutions, including schools and hospitals.17 Notably, de-Baathification measures are proactive and do not require proof that the affected individuals have themselves committed any crime.
Although the restrictions can be relaxed on appeal, they apply to 50,000 or more people. Initially, nearly 30,000 lost their jobs. About half of these later received pensions or returned to work on appeal.18
The key provisions of de-Baathification involving the electoral process dictate that:
The policy of de-Baathification represents a clear departure from the approach adopted in many other recent transitional societies. Rather than drawing on the experiences of Russia, Eastern Europe, or South Africa the policy draws on the practice of de-Nazification in Germany after the Second World War. But the analogy between the Baath and Nazi parties is a false one: Unlike the Nazi Party, the Baath Party did not have a membership broadly and deeply devoted to its leader and his policies - especially not after the Iran-Iraq and 1991Gulf wars.22 A better analog is the moribund communist parties of the East, in which membership was nominal for many people. In Iraq during the Hussein years (as in many former communist countries) advancement in public institutions and in many professional fields required party membership.
Baath Party membership above the lowest levels was drawn predominantly (although not exclusively) from the Sunni community. Hence, broad-brush de-Baathification has cut more deeply into this community. And it covers many who, while formerly members of the Baath, have not been charged with a crime and who may still be regarded locally as prominent individuals, "good people", or even leaders. Regulations that bar or impede their full political participation in the new government creates a powerful constituency for boycott or worse - and may feed a broader sense among Sunnis that the new order is not for them. A better approach would have focused sanctions more narrowly on those individuals most responsible for violations of international law and human rights. This would have accorded better with the recent successful experience of transitional societies in the East and in South Africa.
Addendum 1: Iraqi attitudes on the coalition, occupation, force withdrawal, and appointed Iraqi governments
A1.1. When Should Coalition Forces Leave?
February 2004: 33 percent want withdrawal within a year; 40 percent, withdrawal once an Iraqi government is in place; 27 percent, a longer or more open-ended stay. (Oxford Research International)
March-April 2004: 57 percent, "leave immediately"; 36 percent, "stay longer". (Gallup)
June 2004: 41 percent, "immediate withdrawal"; 45 percent, withdrawal after election of a permanent government; 10 percent, 2 years or longer. (Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society/CPA).
June 2004: 30 percent desire immediate withdrawal, 51 percent want withdrawal after a government is elected, 13 percent said that Coalition forces should remain until stability was achieved. (Iraq Centre for Research & Strategic Studies).
June 2004: 53 percent say leave now or "within a few months" or "until an Interim Government is in place" or "in six months to a year"; 33.5 percent allow "more than one year" or "until permanent government is in place"; 13.6 percent, even longer if necessary. (Oxford Research International)
A1.2. Attitudes toward US forces
February 2004: 56.3 percent of Iraqis somewhat or strongly oppose the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq. "Strongly oppose" versus "strongly support" is 2.5-to-1. (Oxford Research International)
March-April 2004: 58 percent say US forces have behaved very or fairly badly; 34 percent say US forces have behaved very or fairly well. The ratio between those saying "very bad" and those saying "very well": 3-to-1. (Gallup/CNN/USA Today).
March-April 2004: 30 percent say that attacks on US forces were somewhat or completely justified; another 22 percent said they were sometimes justified. (Gallup/CNN/USA Today).
May 2004: 87 percent express little or no confidence in US coalition forces; 92 percent view coalition forces as occupiers, rather than liberators or peace keepers. (Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society/CPA).
June 2004: 67 percent of Iraqis strongly or somewhat oppose the presence of Coalition troops; 30 percent support. (Iraq Centre for Research & Strategic Studies).
June 2004: 58 percent of Iraqis somewhat or strongly oppose the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq. Strongly oppose versus strongly support is 3-to-1. (Oxford Research International)
June 2004: 70 percent say Coalition troops are an occupying or exploiting force; 30 percent say a liberating or peacekeeping force. (Oxford Research International)
June 2004: Invasion of Iraq was absolutely right say 13.2 percent; somewhat right, 27.6 percent; somewhat wrong, 25.7 percent; absolutely wrong, 33.5 percent. (Oxford Research International).
A1.3. Attitudes toward the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi government
February 2004, Oxford: 31 percent express confidence in CPA, 69 percent do not. 43 percent express confidence in Iraqi government, 57.3 percent do not. (Oxford Research International).
March-April: 42 percent of Iraqis judge CPA behavior to be fairly or very bad; 25 percent say it was fairly or very good. The ratio between those saying "very bad" and those saying "very good" is 4-to-1. (Gallup/CNN/USA Today).
May 2004: 85 percent of Iraqis express little or no confidence in the CPA; 66 percent express little or no confidence in the Iraqi Governing Council. (Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society/CPA).
June 2004: 25.6 percent express confidence in CPA, 74.4 percent do not; 42.7 percent express confidence in IGC, 57.3 percent do not. (Oxford Research International).
October 2004: 55 percent say Interim Government does not represent the interests of people like them "very much" or "at all". Nearly 50 percent find the government to be ineffective; 43 percent find it to be effective - a sharp decline since the government took office in June 2004. (International Republican Institute.)
A1.4. Is life better or worse?
March-April 2004: 46 percent say the US invasion has done more harm than good; 33 percent say more good. (Gallup).
March-April 2004: 42 percent say Iraq is better off today than before the invasion, 39 percent say worse, 17 percent say the same. (Gallup).
August 2004: 46 percent of Iraqis say their situation has improved since the fall of Hussein, 31 percent say it has grown worse, and 21 percent say it is unchanged. (International Republican Institute.)
Gallup poll conducted with USA Today and CNN: Cesar G. Soriano and Steven Komarow, "Poll: Iraqis out of patience," USA Today, 28 April 2004; "Key findings: Nationwide survey of 3,500 Iraqis," USA Today, 28 April 2004, available at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-04-28-gallup-iraq-findings.htm. Also see: Richard Burkholder, Gallup Poll of Iraq: Liberated, Occupied, or in Limbo? (Princeton, NJ: Gallop Organization, 28 April 2004).
Oxford Research International polls: National Survey of Iraq, February 2004 (Oxford, UK: Oxford Research International); National Survey of Iraq, June 2004 (Oxford, UK: Oxford Research International); both available at: http://www.oxfordresearch.com/publications.html
International Republican Institute polls: Survey of Iraqi Public Opinion, September 24 - October 4, 2004 (Washington DC: International Republican Institute, October 2004), available at: http://www.iri.org/pub.asp?id=7676767887; Survey of Iraqi Public Opinion, July 24 - August 2, 2004 (Washington DC: International Republican Institute, August 2004), available at: http://www.iri.org/pub.asp?id=7676767885
Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society/CPA poll: Public Opinion in Iraq: First Poll Following Abu Ghraib Revelations 14-23 May 2004 (Baghdad: CPA, May 2004), available at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5217741/site/newsweek/
Juan Cole, "Spinning Iraqi Opinion at Taxpayer Expense," Antiwar.com, 25 October 2004, available at: http://www.antiwar.com/cole/?articleid=3843
Robin Wright, "Religious Leaders Ahead in Iraq Poll; U.S.-Supported Government Is Losing Ground, Washington Post, 22t October 2004, p. 1;
Mark Turner, "80% of Iraqis want coalition troops out," Financial Times, 7 July 2004;
Michael Hirsh, "Grim Numbers," Newsweek, 16 June 2004;
John Lemke, "Poll: Security, unemployment major problems, UPI, 25 May 2004.
Poll summaries and collections:
"Opinion Polls in Iraq," Iraqanalysis.org, http://www.iraqanalysis.org/info/55
Iraq Index: Tracking Reconstruction and Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (Washington DC: Brookings Institution), section on public opinion polls; available at: http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex
Frederick Barton and Bathsheba Crocker, project directors, Progress or Peril? Measuring Iraq's Reconstruction (Washington DC: CSIS, September 2004), available at: www.csis.org/isp/pcr/0409_progressperil.pdf
Addendum 2. Democracy Derailed: The Iraqi National Conference, August 2004 23
Drawing on the example of the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan, UN Security Council Resolution 1546 mandated the convocation of an Iraqi National Conference in July 2004, which would, among other things, select an ongoing Iraqi National Council. The Conference and subsequent Council were meant to build national consensus, advise Iraq's interim government, prepare the nation for full elections, and enhance the legitimacy of the interim government as being representative of the Iraqi people. The powers of the Council, which would remain in force until the election of a transitional government, included the right to appoint replacements to the Presidency Council in cases of resignation or death, veto Interim Government orders by a 2/3 majority vote, and approve the 2005 Iraqi national budget. Unfortunately, rather than advancing democratic practice in Iraq, the National Conference process proved to be a travesty of democratic principles and consensus-building.
Initially the conference was to include 1,000 Iraqis representative of the country's diverse communities and constituencies. Conference participants would, in turn, select most of the 100 members of the National Council. Nineteen of the seats had been set aside for former members of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which had ended its tenure in June 2004. Members of the IGC and the big expatriate parties also quickly took control of preparations for the conference. Participation in the conference was to be determined by a Preparatory Commission of 92 people, which included 20 former IGC members. The commission itself had been selected by a smaller five-person committee chaired by IGC members, who held four of the seats. While the Commission set out to choose half the participants, the other half were to be selected by provincial caucuses, drawing partially on the various local "civil society" and "good government" councils that were being established by US agencies and contractors.
Shortly before the conference was to begin, UN advisors intervened to say that the participant pool was not sufficiently inclusive. In their assessment, it still drew too much on the narrow base of government and expatriate party supporters. This assessment was an indictment of not only the government's bias, but also the bias of the local "civil society" councils that were supposed to feed the process. Under pressure from the United Nations, the organizers agreed to postpone the meeting by two weeks and to select 300 additional delegates from under-represented groups. (Like the current proposal to delay the 30 January 2005, this one violated the explicit timetable set by Security Resolution 1546 and by the Annex to the Transition Administrative Law.)
Despite the UN's last minute effort to broaden the National Conference, the big pro-government and expatriate organizations were able to reassert their control during the selection of the executive body, the National Council. Delegates were informed by the conference organizers that they would vote on a single-list of 81 candidates for the National Council that had been chosen by the organizers. This procedure, which had not been announced prior to the meeting, prompted 450 delegates to threaten a walk out. In response, conference organizers agreed to allow a competing ticket, but the ad hoc opposition could not assemble a stable one in the allotted time. Rather than lend their support to the proceedings, 300 delegates walked out. A panel of conference judges then ruled that the conference organizers' slate had won by default, prompting additional walk outs. The slate was eventually affirmed by a show of hands among the remaining delegates. No secret ballot occurred.
As an experiment in and training ground for democracy, the National Conference failed. Although the process was certainly more open to the popular will than was the mechanism by which the Iraqi Governing Council and Interim Government had been appointed, it was easily subverted nonetheless. Relevant to the January 2005 elections, the experience illustrated how the big expatriate parties might use their superior organization, concerted action, and positions of authority in government to overwhelm an opposition that enjoyed none of these advantages.
Just as important, it showed those parties to have the inclination to give greater priority to their own advancement than to the goal of building a stable consensus. While the expatriate parties were able to extend the powers originally granted to them by the United States, they did so at the cost of increasing popular alienation from the government. What might have become a venue for constructive compromise in the Iraqi polity became, instead, a stimulus to further confrontation. Perhaps most disconcerting was the relative failure of the international media to critically examine the National Conference process. Remarkably little has been said or written about the affair, thus increasing the likelihood that the January elections will follow a similar path.
1. Peter Baker, "Bush Dismisses Talk of Delaying Iraq Vote," Washington Post, 3 December 2004, p. 1.
2. Warren Hoge, "Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: Rescue UN," New York Times, 2 January 2005; Brian Knowlton, "US endorses UN plan to bolster Iraq election," International Herald Tribune, 17 December 2004; Anne Penketh, "The hounding of Kofi Annan," The Independent, 9 December 2004; David R. Sands, "Powell rebukes Annan on Iraq," Washington Times, 17 September 2004; Frieder Reimold, "Putin, Chirac and Schroeder pledge to work for stability in Iraq," Associated Press, 31 August 2004; and, Anton La Guardia, "Germany edges closer to Britain's side," Daily Telegraph, 3 February 2004, p. 12.
3. Steven Komarow, "Lengthy ballots, ad blitzes contribute to confusion," USA Today, 19 January 2005; Bernhard Zand, "Democratic Confusion," Der Spiegel On Line, 19 January 2005; Lin Noueihed, "Iraqis Grapple with Confusing Election Choices," Reuters, 30 December 2004; and, Walter Pincus and Anthony Shadid, "Iraq Faces Hurdles On Details Of Election; About 200 Names Likely To Appear on Ballot," Washington Post, 30 November 2004, p. 12.
4. Borzou Daragahi, "Underfunded Parties Fight to Be Heard Before Elections," Boston Globe, 21 January 2005, p. 17; and, Ashraf Khalil, "Smaller Parties Jostle for Piece of Iraq Election Pie," Los Angeles Times, 15 December 2004, p. 1.
5. Kenneth Katzman, Iraq: U.S. Regime Change Efforts and Post-Saddam Governance (Washington DC: Congressional Research Service, 22 October 2004).
6. Judy Van Rest (IRI) and Kenneth Wollack (NDI), "Promoting Free and Fair Elections in Iraq: NGOs and Building the Political Process," briefing at the US Department of State, Foreign Press Center, Washington DC, 3 January 2005; US AID Support to the Iraq Election Process (Washington DC: US AID Press Office, November 18, 2004); Office of the Spokesman, United States Allocates $871 Million to Support Iraqi Elections (Washington DC: US Department of State, 22 October 2004); "Iraq: Elections And Democracy Promotion Assistance," Daily Press Briefing, US Department of State, 21 October 2004; William I. Robinson, "What to Expect from US 'Democracy Promotion' in Iraq, New Political Science (September 2004); and, United States Institute of Peace, Donor Activities and Civil Society Potential in Iraq, Special Report 124 (Washington DC: USIP, July 2004).
7. "Iraq to spend $90 mln for expats to vote in polls," Reuters, 6 November 2004; and, Edward Wong, "Iraqi Officials to Allow Vote by Expatriates," New York Times, 5 November 2004.
8. The US government has allotted more than $500 million to efforts to build and shape Iraqi civil society and local governance. The most prominent program has been undertaken by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) under a $234 million contract with USAID. It employs more than 1600 personnel, including more than 200 expatriates. RTI, together with USAID and the former Coalition Provisional Authority, has established citizen councils at the provincial, municipal, and neighborhood levels. They have also helped to fashion or re-fashion other civil society organizations. All told 700 councils or organizations have been affected. An important aim of the effort has been to identify and promote new, pragmatic, and cooperative leaders at all levels -- "leaders you can work with" in the words of Fritz Weden from the Office of Transition Initiatives (ref: Docena) -- and to prepare them and their groups to play a role in national governance. Participants were chosen by a variety of mechanism - although seldom a popular vote - and then screened by occupation authorities to exclude rejectionists. Local governance bodies that had sprung-up spontaneously after the fall of Hussein were often set aside, although in some places they were screened into the process. The new local councils are supposed to be non-ideological. Political parties were formally excluded from the process. However, participant training has included seminars on neo-liberal and free market principles, which are echoed by some of the parties contending for office.
Sources: Herbert Docena, "Getting the 'Right' People in Iraq," Middle East Report 232 (Fall 2004); William I. Robinson, "What to Expect from US 'Democracy Promotion' in Iraq, New Political Science (September 2004); US Agency for International Development, A Year in Iraq (Washington DC: US AID, May 2004); Naomi Klein, "RTI Plans Future 'Local' Government," The Nation, 5 February 2004; Office of the Spokesman, United States Allocates $871 Million to Support Iraqi Elections (Washington DC: US Department of State, 22 October 2004); "Iraq: Elections And Democracy Promotion Assistance," Daily Press Briefing, US Department of State, 21 October 2004; United States Institute of Peace, Donor Activities and Civil Society Potential in Iraq, Special Report 124 (Washington DC: USIP, July 2004); US Agency for International Development, A Year in Iraq (Washington DC: US AID, May 2004); and, Ariana Eunjung Cha, "Hope and Confusion Mark Iraq's Democracy Lessons," Washington Post, 24 November 2003, p. 1.
9. Walter Pincus, "Security Issue Threatens to Skew Iraq Vote; Only Candidates Who Can Afford Guards Have Their Names Publicized," Washington Post, 16 January 2005, p. 27; and, Anthony Shadid, "Hazards On Trail For Sunni Politicians; Party Feeling Harassed By Iraqi Rebels, US," Washington Post, 26 November 2004, p. 1.
10. Dexter Filkins, "Rising Violence and Fear Drive Iraq Campaigners Underground," New York Times, 16 January 2005, p. 1.
11. Dan Murphy, "Secrecy surrounds Iraq vote; Concerned about violence, some political parties won't even reveal candidate lists," Christian Science Monitor, 13 January 2005.
12. Robin Wright, "No Foreign Observers to Monitor Iraq Vote," Washington Post, 22 January 2005, p. 12.
13. Timothy J. Burger and Douglas Waller, "How Much US Help? The Bush Administration takes heat for a CIA plan to influence Iraq's elections," Time, 4 October 2004. Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland has suggested that the actual efforts probably did not extend much beyond a campaign to raise fears about Syrian and Iranian interference in the election, raise suspicions about Shiite fundamentalist links to Iran, and engineer a "kiss-of-death" meeting between Iraqi president Ghazi Yawar and Mohammed Younis Ahmed, the former secretary general of the Baathist party. Jim Hoagland, "Scare Tactics in Baghdad," Washington Post, 19 December 2004, p. B7.
14. Iraq does not stand alone in having a single, nation-wide electoral district for parliamentary elections, but most countries that follow this path -- for instance, Moldova, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Israel - are smaller in size and population than Iraq.
15. Warren Vieth, "US To Lay Off 500,000 In Iraq," Los Angeles Times, 5 June 2003.
16. Walter Pincus, "Iraqi Rules for Candidacy Spur Some US Concern; UN Also Worries Pressure May Squelch Sunnis," Washington Post, 6 November 2004, p. 19.
17. Sergei Danilochkin, "Iraq: Authorities Announce New De-Baathification Measure," RFE/RL, 14 January 2004; "Iraqi council set to root out Baathists," AFP, 12 January 2004; Jonathan Steele, "US decree strips thousands of their jobs," The Guardian, 30 August 2003; Ilene R. Prusher, "Jobless Iraqi soldiers issue threats; The US de-Baathification policy would not allow senior officers to join a reconfigured military," Christian Science Monitor, 5 June 2003; Jim Krane, "Many Baathists Banned from Iraq Government," Associated Press, 16 May 2003; and, Peter Ford and Faye Bowers, "Regime Change: How much of a purge is needed?" Christian Science Monitor, 23 March 2003, p 4.
18. Rory McCarthy, "U-turn on hiring of Baath party members," The Guardian, 23 April 2004.
19. Law of Administration for the State of Iraq For the Transitional Period (Baghdad: Coalition Provisional Authority, 8 March 2004), Article 31 (B) (2).
20. Law of Administration for the State of Iraq For the Transitional Period, Article 31 (B) (3).
21. Law of Administration for the State of Iraq For the Transitional, Article 36 (B) (3).
22. Douglas Porch, "Germany, Japan, and the De-Baathification of Iraq," Strategic Insight, Center for Contemporary Conflict, 7 March 2003.
23. Sources on the Iraqi National Conference, August 2004:
Editorial, "Politics of Exclusion in Iraq," New York Times, 22 August 2004, p. 8;
Michael Howard, "Iraq names first assembly in day of drama," The Guardian, 19 August 2004;
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "In Discord, Iraqis Select Interim Assembly," Washington Post, 19 August 2004, p. A19;
James Hider, "Council is chosen without vote, The Times (London), 19 August 2004;
"Delegates brand Iraqi council vote undemocratic," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 19 August 2004;
"New Iraqi legislature voted by default," Agence France Presse, 18 August 2004;
Sam Dagher, "Iraq national conference on brink of collapse; Protestors accuse political bigwigs of have already drawn up their lists for selecting Iraq's national council," AFP, 17 August 2004;
Charles Recknagel and Peyman Pejman, "National Conference Speaking for the Nation, But How Representative Is It?", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 17 August 2004;
Mohamad Bazzi, "A fight for influence in Iraq; Democratic exercise has become divisive with rivalries between former exile parties, homegrown leaders," Newsday, 1 August 2004, p. 32;
Rory McCarthy, "US opponents to boycott Iraqi national conference," The Guardian, 10 July 2004; and
Annia Ciezadlo, "Iraq's Governing Council grants itself new leadership role; Most members gain seats of power in new government," The Daily Star (Lebanon), 25 June 2004.
Citation: Carl Conetta, The Iraqi election "bait and switch": faulty poll will not bring peace or US withdrawal, Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Report #17. Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute, 25 January 2005. http://www.comw.org/pda/0501br17.html
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