Iraqi Cynicism

In January 2006 Iraqis went to the polls in order to elect a new government for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the incumbent prime minister, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, was chosen by his own faction by a margin of 1 vote, yet he clung tenaciously to his designate position for months. One plausible explanation: he was cynical about democracy; his selection is not likely to repeat. Many Iraqis are cynical about democracy and there are historical reasons.
In the late nineteen fifties there was a different party claiming to be democratic and pushing to “democratize” Iraq. This party had democratic youth organizations, democratic trade unions and democratic militias. That was the time when the Communist Party was strong and many of its front organizations were called democratic, so much so that democratic became the buzzword for communism, many Iraqis still associate the practices of the Communist Party with democracy. The communist idea of dictatorship of the proletariat is what many Iraqis at present understand how a majority should rule. Before that the monarchy from 1923 to 1958 had a functioning democracy, but the poor, the disaffected and many others scorned the process, this was tolerated by the authorities of the time. What the Iraqis did not understand at the time was that tolerance is part of real democracy. Saddam’s regime treated the democratic process as a rubber stamp, in a sense reflecting popular cynicism.
Many Iraqis agree that the first constitutional election of 2005 was fair but partial; many Sunnis boycotted the polls out of fear, which worked against their seat allocations for the next elections. The partiality worked against the Shia’s Coalition Party also, it robbed them of achieving absolute majority by a very small margin. Yet many smaller parties formed a loose group to question the large numerical jump in the Coalition Party’s popular vote, allegations of fraud and coercion were plenty. An appointed 3-man international committee came to investigate, it investigated procedural claims and made adjustment to the seat allocations, but it did not carry a mandate to investigate coercion or to open and recount the ballot boxes, apparently nobody told the group of the committee’s limited mandate before they agreed in advance to accept the committee’s findings.

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