Iraq: “This Democracy Thing Might Work”!
It sure has been getting low-key coverage in the MSM, but it appears the election in Iraq went off very well and is producing some surprising and, frankly, good results.
14,400 candidates stood for office. Unlike 2005, when 200 candidates were killed prior to the election, this time 8 were lost. 14 of the 18 provinces were included (Kurdistan’s provinces are having separate elections) and while turnout was considered to be low (51%), Sunnis participated en mass for the first time. William Shawcross describes the results:
All the Islamic parties lost ground, especially that associated with the so-called “Shia firebrand”, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose share of the vote went down from 11% to 3%. The principal Sunni Islamic party, the Islamic Party of Iraq, was wiped out.
The only Islamic party to gain ground was the Dawa party of the Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki – and even that party dropped the word Islamic from its name. The power of Maliki, who has emerged a stronger leader than expected, is further enhanced by these elections. Now no Islamic parties will be able to control any provinces on their own. The election is thus a big defeat for Iran which had hoped that Shia religious parties would control the south and enable Iran to turn them into a mini Shia republic.
I know this has some of you gasping for breath out there. We were assured by none other than the great Juan Cole and his fellow travelers that Iran was in total control of the Iraqi governmental apparatus and would quickly turn into what Shawcross characterizes as a “mini-Shia republic”.
Yet it appears that the Iraqi public are rejecting the concept of a theocracy in favor of a more secular government. And that, of course is a de facto rejection of Iran.
Obviously Iraq still has a long way to go, but it is hard to deny the amount of progress that has been made. Except for the dead-enders who’ve vested so much into this being the “worst foreign policy disaster in US history”, it is looking pretty darn good in Iraq.
USMC Maj Gen John F. Kelly gives you an indication of the level of change that has taken place in previously violent Anbar province:
Something didn’t happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy.
What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives.
One of the things I’ve always said was that we came here to “give” them democracy. Even in the dark days my only consolation was that it was about freedom and democracy. After what I saw today, and having forgotten our own history and revolution, this was arrogance. People are not given freedom and democracy – they take it for themselves. The Anbaris deserve this credit.
Today I step down as the dictator, albeit benevolent, of Anbar Province. Today the Anbaris took it from me. I am ecstatic. It was a privilege to be part of it, to have somehow in a small way to have helped make it happen.
There will be further setbacks. But who knows, Iraq may yet even become a model for democratic change in other Arab countries. If so, who deserves some credit? The much maligned President Bush. And Tony Blair.
Now that’s real hope and change.
[Crossposted at QandO]