Feb 21, 2005
The official results of the Iraqi elections were announced on February 13, two weeks after the voting. The United Iraqi Alliance, led by Shiite clerics, got 48% of the vote and 140 of the 275 seats in the national assembly. Seventy-five assembly seats will go to the alliance of the two major Kurdish parties, which received 26% of the vote. The list of the current U.S.-backed prime minister Iyad Allawi came in a distant third, with 14% of the vote and 40 seats in the national assembly.
The information available makes a thorough and detailed analysis of the election results difficult, if not impossible. What can be said with certainty, however, is that the results are not a victory for "democracy," as George Bush wants us to believe.
First, the voter turnout was definitely not as high as initial reports suggested. The Sunni population either boycotted the elections, or was prevented from voting. Anbar province, for example, where the U.S.-beleaguered cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are, reported a whopping TWO% participation! But Shiites, who make up 60 to 65% of Iraq's population, apparently didn't show up at the polls in keeping with their numbers in the population either. In Baghdad, for example, where Shiites overwhelmingly populate the poor neighborhoods and make up a majority of the city's population, the reported turnout was only 51%. And in Baghdad, there were many reports of people being warned they had to vote in order to get their food ration. The official voter turnout is 58%, mainly thanks to the high participation reported from the Kurdish areas in the north.
Secondly, far from unifying Iraqis, as Bush would have us believe, the elections were obviously based on the existing ethnic divisions in the country. The Shiite alliance has gained a slight majority in the national assembly, but the Kurdish slate will have enough votes to veto any cabinet or legislation it doesn't like.
In any case, violence continues unabated since the elections. In the past three weeks, at least 43 U.S. soldiers and 330 Iraqis have been killed. And, more and more, the attacks bear the signs of an ethnic and religious civil war. On February 18 and 19, which marked the Shiite holy day of Ashura, for example, at least 85 people were killed. Most of the deaths resulted from bombings that targeted crowds gathered near Shiite mosques, and one Sunni funeral procession.
If more U.S. troops are not getting killed and wounded, it's only because they have retreated to their fortified quarters for the moment. Given the growing opposition to this war in the polls back home, it is not surprising that the Bush administration and the military want to avoid high casualties. Will the U.S. eventually decide to intervene in the rising civil war, at the cost of higher U.S. casualties? Or will it decide to pull out of Iraq and let the different ethnic armies fight it out amongst themselves at the expense of the people of Iraq?
It remains to be seen. If the Bush administration decides to pull out of Iraq, it wouldn't be the first time that the U.S. is forced to pull out of a war it started halfway around the world. Nor would such a civil war started by an outside power be a new thing for Iraq – the British did the same thing about 90 years ago when they occupied the country for four years. The British eventually pulled out, but the seeds of division they sowed in Iraq paved the way for decades of violence, as well as the repressive dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation have made things only worse for the people of Iraq.
The charade of a supposedly "democratic" election and other obvious lies of the Bush administration, shamelessly parroted by a complicit news media, cannot hide this obvious fact.