Thursday, December 22, 2005

One Big Happy Family

Some post-Iraq election developments via the AP:

Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened Thursday to boycott Iraq's new legislature if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body.

A representative for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the Dec. 15 vote as "fraudulent" and the elected lawmakers "illegitimate."

A joint statement issued by 35 political groups that competed in last week's elections said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, which oversaw the ballot, should be disbanded.

It also said the more than 1,250 complaints about fraud, ballot box stuffing and intimidation should be reviewed by international organizations such as the United Nations.
Just so we're all on the same page here: According to the Bush administration and its supporters, these elections were significant because the Sunnis came out en masse to vote, which is supposed to be a clear indication that they are joining the political process instead of pursuing violent means via the insurgencies to press their demands.

With that in mind, does a boycott coupled with charges of illegitimacy count as "participation" in the political process? Is such an environment really going to convince Sunni nationalist/Baathist insurgents to abdicate violence? My guess is, just the opposite.

The allegations of fraud (undoubtedly true in many instances) and the perception that the political game is rigged is not going to persuade many Sunni insurgents/insurgent supporters to give up their arms and go along with a Shiite dominated political process - one in which they will have little power and what power they do have can be capriciously yanked away from them at every interval. As a matter of fact, the insurgencies might be looking a bit more attractive today, after the glimmer of optimism and exaggerated expectations of electoral gains have faded away. No doubt many are wondering where else they can turn - what options other than the insurgencies exist? At the very least, those intent on pursuing the "bullets and ballots" approach will not be putting away the bullets just yet.

There is still room, I suppose, for there to be an "adjustment" in the electoral tally, or the invitation of international reviewers - though I wouldn't bet on it. And even if the election results are unaltered, the Shiites could still make a grand concession in terms of amending the constitution - but a boycott of the legislature by the Sunnis and secular groups would sort of complicate that process. Khalilzad has his work cut out for him.

One more thing: When international bodies and other policy makers and pundits criticized previous Iraqi elections as illegitimate due to the exclusion of entire swathes of the Iraqi population, they were accused of being unrealistic, quixotic and/or engaging in mindless Bush-bashing. So, how do we characterize Iyad Allawi's position and the position of other secular Iraqis and Sunni parties? Do these partisans just need to get a historical perspective on "elections and their discontents"? Should we treat Allawi and other secular Iraqis to analogies of elections during the American Civil War to reassure and/or scold them? Just asking.

(cross-posted at American Footprints)

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