There seems to be a huge amount of material on the internet on Iraqi reactions to the elections that were held yesterday, but all those I have read are recorded before the elections. It's clear that the Iraqis do not speak with one voice on this issue. See for instance the blog of A Family in Baghdad. The three reactions I have reproduced below from Open Democracy are fairly representative of opposition and qualified acceptance. The Sunnis will have excluded themselves from the election both because of a boycott as well as from fear of being killed by the armed resistance to the US-led occupation. But because at least some of the resistance are now Sunni extremists, it seems very likely that ordinary Sunnis who would have voted, stayed at home for fear of being killed. There are also large numbers of Sunnis who stayed away out of opposition to the occupation. But both groups will be made to pay for this partly enforced boycott for the actions of armed men acting on their behalf but usually without their consent.
On the other hand, the Shia group of Ali Sistani seems to have acted very wisely in being focused on their objective of forming a government. If this wisdom translates into allowing the Sunni minorities a stake in the new government, then the power and legitimacy of the bomb-laden car will have been blunted to some extent.
A great deal depends on what happens next. Given the conditions under which the elections have taken place, huge expectation will have been generated among those who cast their votes, sometimes at the risk of their lives. This must translate very quickly into security of life and limb and an improvement in living conditions for the majority of people in order for the armed resistance to abate, otherwise it will only be strengthened. In the long term, if the elections do not result in a constitional government to be formed next year with genuine sovereignty of decision making, especially over the oil resources, then the resistance to the US-led occupation (but masked by a puppet regime) will continue for a long time.
Firas Al-Atraqchi, journalist
As an Iraqi, I enjoy the right to protest this farcical vote as much as the right to participate in it.
Never before has a nation been forced to hold elections while it stands under occupation; while occupying forces lay waste to towns and villages; while enemies external and internal cause havoc within its common streets.
Sorry, but any comparison to Germany or Japan is infantile and insulting. Germany did not have entire villages surrounded, and there was no nationwide resistance against the occupying presence. Furthermore, Germany had already set in motion social and economic democratic institutions before the rise of the National Socialists (Nazis) in the early 1920s. Germany was already primed.
As for Japan, the feeling there was that most people were ready to cooperate with the Americans.
These are but the most basic differences between these countries and Iraq.
We are told that 14 of the 18 governorates will enjoy full voting capabilities. That’s for domestic US consumption. What you are not told is that three of the largest governorates Baghdad, Anbar and Ninevah are in dire security status, with the latter two not holding elections at all. Partial national voting is being passed off as “better than not voting at all”.
What kind of elections are we to expect when the candidates are unknown. Who are they and where do they come from? What abilities and skills do they have to serve me – an Iraqi citizen – to ensure a better future for myself and my children?
No names, only fancy lists with fancy slogans.
What are the campaign objectives? What are the plans to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure? No answer.
Why is there such an emphasis to hold elections at this juncture? Why such resolve to deny calls for a six-month delay?
How can national elections be held before a national reconciliation effort?
How can we expect fair elections under the auspices of an interim government that, according to Human Rights Watch, is employing identical torture, restraint and interrogation tactics as the regime before it? This is a government – incapable of even a rodent’s squeak of protestation over Abu Ghraib and the more recent incident involving British troops – that cares about the welfare of its people, believes in due process, and protecting the rights of those incarcerated?
Thanks, but no thanks.
Huda Jawad, Forward Thinking
I registered to vote last week, and I’m actually going to be helping out here in London. I’ll be observing the voting and possibly getting involved in the counting as well.
I am a Shia and I left Iraq at the age of 2. My family have been directly and indirectly affected by Saddam’s regime. I have worked and lived in opposition to Saddam’s policies as long as I can remember. Voting for me is very important and I take it seriously. I relish the chance of being able to vote, but having said that, I have no illusions about the process being absolutely perfect. By all means it is a very initial and small step.
By not voting I would be dishonouring the memory of all those people who have fought so hard to oppose Saddam’s regime, the British and the international forces, but above all the Iraqis who have been victims of Saddam’s regime for the past few decades. The only way I can take part in building Iraq, from the outside, is to vote and define my right as an Iraqi citizen.
I completely understand and sympathise with those people who have concerns about the election and aren’t participating. But I do feel that the current situation in Iraq is not conducive to anything else but voting. We need to start from somewhere. However imperfect the elections are, at least we can say that we’ve begun something that wasn’t there before.
It is unfortunate that Iraq is occupied by the Coalition forces, but under Saddam we were occupied by our very own people. We didn’t have 10% of the rights we exercise now, albeit in a very insecure environment. I don’t agree that the only way to get Iraq out of its current situation is to abstain from voting, in fact it’s the very opposite of that.
Iraq at the moment is in a very difficult scenario to predict. There are so many different players, interests, groups, and all have a stake in what is going on at the moment, whether in delaying the elections, sabotaging them, taking part, or even ensuring that they actually take place.
The elections will mark a defining moment in Iraq’s history. But whether they will lead to great security and stability – that’s another matter. One would hope it will be the start of a real democratic future for Iraq, but I am sceptical as to how effective they’ll be in preventing further violence, especially amongst the Sunni insurgents. There’s no doubt it will be a struggle.
Sami Ramadani, Academic
Iraq is being denied free and fair elections. The United States and British occupation governments have engineered a process for reproducing the US-appointed Iraqi interim government, to prolong the occupation and incite sectarian and ethnic conflicts.
Millions of Iraqis, under siege in many parts of their homeland, will be disenfranchised, while hundreds of thousands of second-generation Americans and Israelis could vote.
While boycotting this undemocratic exercise, I strongly condemn all forms of violence against Iraqis participating in it. As an exile, I am confident that the vast majority of Iraqis, at home and abroad, shall unite to end the US-led occupation and establish democracy, whatever their stance on participation.
I echo the opinions within Iraq stressing the impossibility of holding free and fair elections while under occupation, and being subjected to war crimes by the US-led forces. However, I support demands for minimal preconditions:
1. setting a strict timetable for speedy withdrawal of all occupation forces
ceasing all attacks, and confining all occupation forces to barracks until full withdrawal
2. ending martial law and releasing all political prisoners
establishing an independent election commission, led by Iraq’s senior serving and retired judges, and
3. including all Iraq’s political forces.
This could be assisted by anti-occupation figures such as Nelson Mandela and members of the United Nations general assembly