Jan 24, 2005
On January 30, Iraqi voters are supposed to elect a Transitional National Assembly of 275 members, which will then have nine months to draft a constitution. The constitution is to be voted on in a referendum October 2005, and a new assembly election set up for December 2005. In addition, voters in the three Kurdish provinces will elect an Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly of 105 members. Voters in each of the country's 18 provinces will elect governing councils. All these elections are organized according to a list system. Each voter votes for one list in each election and each list will be allocated a number of seats proportional to its votes.
At least 75 lists have been registered. The main lists are the "Iraqi United Alliance," bringing together the two main Shia parties; the small party of ex-U.S. favorite Ahmed Chalabi, dominated by Sunnis with a few individual Shiites, Kurds and Turcomans; the "National Front," which is formed by Prime Minister Allawi's Iraqi National Accord with various satellite groups; and an association of two Kurdish parties, the KDP and PUK. The Iraqi Communist Party has formed a "People's Union" list, which includes candidates from all minorities, on a program advocating, among other things, the separation of state and religion.
There are many questions that this election leaves unresolved. First, there is the question of the Sunni parties who, with public support from the Sunni Council of Clerics, have called for the election to be postponed until some order returns to the Sunni Triangle. Faced with U.S. refusal, they seem to have decided to boycott the election. What will they do next?
Also, what will the Shia fundamentalist movement of Moqtada al-Sadr do? Al-Sadr has made no secret of his intention to turn his militia into a political movement at some point. And he is definitely working to build support for it with a certain amount of success. His supporters are organizing a national protest against power cuts, with a demonstration in Baghdad, while his militiamen are hunting down black-marketeers and organizing the distribution of petrol and kerosene in Sadr City, the capital's Shia slum. But when and how he will decide to move remains an open question.
Whatever happens, this election can only be a parody of a democratic election. It's clear it will be rife with fraud. And the only observers sent by the Ottawa conference to monitor the vote will be "observing" from the safety of Jordan, for security reasons.
But the main reason it will be a farce is the situation in which it is taking place.
On one side, there is the state terrorism of U.S. and British imperialism, with their arsenals of bombs and tanks, their 170,000 heavily armed soldiers, and their determination to reduce Iraq to a vassal state, under a pliable regime.
The U.S. approaches this election with the blood of Fallujah dripping from its hands. How many civilians died in the U.S. attack? The only estimate of civilian casualties available was given by the Red Crescent on the basis of incomplete reports it had from the town's hospitals – 6,000 dead! But no one will ever know the real casualty figure. The only certainty is that this was a bloodbath that will long be remembered and not just in Fallujah.
On the other side, there is the terrorism of armed reactionary groups born out of the western invasion of Iraq, who consider the Iraqi population as disposable cannon-fodder, as they search for ways to establish their own dictatorship in Iraq – or in fiefdoms carved out of Iraq.
What sort of "democratic election" can there be? The real issue is not what voters put in the ballot box, but what they find outside when they leave the polling station – assuming they do vote. And what they find is a bloody war, which claims dozens of lives every day and can claim theirs at any moment.
Whatever happens in this election, the likelihood is that it is only the preparation for a still wider civil war. With the election virtually boycotted in the Sunni areas, the Transitional Assembly will have "legitimacy" at best only in the Shia and Kurdish regions – and not even really there. What the U.S. and Britain have already done in Iraq, setting the different religious and ethnic groups against each other, threatens to erect a wall of blood between them.
Even if there would be a credible turnout in this election, which seems somewhat unlikely, the powder keg created by the invasion of Iraq will not be any more stable. If anything, the threat of an implosion is increasing. And the only methods that imperialism knows how to use facing this threat are the ones it has already demonstrated in the Fallujah massacres. The only prospects imperialism has to offer the Iraqi people are more bloodbaths – not democracy, freedom and liberty as Bush proclaims.