The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Iraqi elections:
A step toward democracy?

Jan 2, 2006

After the parliamentary elections held in Iraq on December 15, Bush proclaimed in his address to the nation that “we are winning the war in Iraq” and bragged that the elections represent the beginning of “constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East.” Administration figures added that the Sunnis, a large population that had boycotted the January elections, presented candidates this time.

But judging by the security measures taken, neither the heads of the occupation force nor of the Iraqi government shared his optimism. They instituted a curfew in the days leading up to the election. They put 130,000 cement barriers around Baghdad to stop all traffic in the streets. And they forbade all Iraqis from leaving their area of residence on the day of the vote.

The Western coalition may gloat with satisfaction about the fact that Sunnis participated this time in the election. This merely hides the fact that the Sunni political parties sponsor armed groups, just as the Shiites and Kurds have been doing. They make no secret of their intentions to impose themselves by force on the rest of Iraq. And Sunni militias demonstrated their intentions with a series of bombing attacks that killed 17 Iraqis in the two days following the cease-fire in place for the elections.

The rival factions that struggle for power have two irons in the fire at the same time: on the one hand, they use violence and terror to impose their dictatorship over the population; and on the other hand, some of them are elected to parliament, seeking to control part of the spoils of what is left of Iraq.

This is what the Shiite parties have done in the year since they took office. Unlike “parliamentary” parties, the parties now in government are the political allies of numerous heavily-armed militias. Look at one of the largest parties, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, (SCIRI), linked closely to the Badr militia. This militia is responsible for most of the kidnappings and executions summarily carried out against SCIRI opponents in the Basra region. Then there is the minister of the Interior, a supposed champion for “democracy,” who is one of the leading figures behind the clandestine prisons where “suspects” are held and tortured without any form of due process.

Results of the December 15 elections seem to indicate that religious parties are in the lead by a strong margin, among both Sunni and Shiite populations. On the Sunni side, the coalition formed around one of the fundamentalist parties, the Islamic Party of Iraq, won close to 20% of the votes in Baghdad, as well as gaining first place in Mosul and Fallujah.

On the Shiite side, the United Alliance of Iraq strengthened its position in the southern Shiite areas, which is not a surprise given its leading position in the existing state apparatus. Even in Baghdad, the Alliance had close to 60% of the votes, despite predictions to the contrary. More importantly, it seems the relationship of forces within the Alliance has shifted. It now will be dominated in almost equal parts by the SCIRI and by the supporters of Moktadah al-Sadr and his “Mahdi army,” which previously did not participate in the elections.

If these election results confirm anything, it is that the new power will be entirely controlled by the two main Shiite fundamentalist militias. This result could lead to a worsening situation since the Sunni militias play on the idea that they are a victimized minority. But even if these parties existed side by side in the government, they would still continue to war for top positions, escalating the violence in order to eliminate any obstacles on the path to power.

The Iraqi population remains hostage in these bloody struggles between rival factions whose appetites for power were whetted by the Western invasion.