Dead Men Left

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqi electoral fraud: two articles, and a guide to the candidates

Salim Lone, former adviser to Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN envoy to Iraq killed in 2003, writes in the International Herald Tribune on the elections in Iraq. The message is unambiguous:

This election is a sham
...[E]ven as the Americans proclaimed their mission as one designed to introduce democracy and human rights in Iraq, they fought against demands for early elections even from putative allies like the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They also maneuvered to put into place a self-governance and electoral plan that, through carefully circumscribed United Nations involvement, they thought would ensure that the hand-picked Iraqi leadership would enjoy some legitimacy, with the elections scheduled for Sunday providing an added boost of Shiite support...

But as this blood-stained election shows, the complete breakdown of this plan has been one of the most colossal U.S. policy failures of the last half-century. Indeed, this is not an election that any democratic nation, or indeed any independent international electoral organization, would recognize as legitimate.

For the only time in memory, electoral candidates are afraid to be seen in public and are forced to campaign from underground cells, with many afraid to even link their names to their faces in the media. There are no public rallies where voters might glean some information about candidates' positions. As one voter told CNN, he would prefer to vote for George Michael, since he knows more about the singer than about any of the candidates running for office.

Those sages interminably repeating that the success of the election will be determined by the level of the turnout do not understand Iraq, or for that matter, elections...

It will come as no surprise that Lone, a high-level UN cadre, argues for the replacement of the bitterly unpopular US military with a multinational, UN-led force. The wisdom of this has to be doubted: the US is detested in Iraq, for sure, but it did not directly administer deadly sanctions on the country for 13 years, killing 500,000 children. Illegitimate as the US may be, it is hard to imagine a UN force having any greater claim to popular support. The bigger question - why the Iraqis must be continually denied self-determination - is left unaswered.

The Project for Defense Alternatives, meanwhile, has a lengthy document on the likely consequences of the current elections. (If you're pushed for time, an "executive summary" can be found here.) Its assesment is all-but identical to Lone's:

The balloting due to take place on 30 January will not fulfill the promise of democracy nor satisfy the Iraqi passion for self-determination. This, due to insecurity, voter confusion, secrecy, ad hoc and chaotic procedures, and the systematic favoritism afforded some candidates and parties over others. These problems attest to the fact that the US mission and the interim authorities it appointed have failed to create the necessary foundation for a democratic process. As a result, the balloting (and the government it produces) will not fairly represent the balance of interests and opinion in Iraqi society. Nor will it unite the country, quiet dissent, or channel dissent along avenues of peaceful political compromise.

Finally, here's a PDF containing the full list of candidates. Except, of course, where those candidates have requested not to have their names printed.