A successful election in Iraq
Sunday’s parliamentary election in Iraq was a great victory for peace and governance in Iraq. Sixty-two percent of the population (male and female) voted, with all the major ethnic and religious groups participating. More than a thousand candidates were on the ballot. We will not know the final results for a few more days, but we can safely expect mixed results, with neither of the major groups dominating the new government. Instead, a coalition of Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, and others will lead post-election Iraq.
The new coalition will be fragile and it might fall soon after its creation. Nonetheless, this wide participatory election with controlled violence marks a turning point. The prior election in 2005 was imposed and managed by the United States. This one reflected much greater Iraqi political management. It also displayed a widespread commitment to a peaceful, multiethnic, political process. Such a moment was almost unthinkable three years ago, at the height of the insurgency, when Iraq seemed fated to chaos and disintegration.
Second elections always matter most. They show evidence of a functioning representative state. They also show public commitment to democratic processes. Most of all, second elections show habits of governance in formation and nascent practice. That is what we all witnessed in Iraq on Sunday. This was a very successful second election, by any reasonable standard.
The challenges for the future of Iraq remain grave. Sectarian differences might destroy the coaltion government and spark a new wave of violence. Corruption might undermine promises for economic development and civic engagement. Foreign forces might exploit fears and divisions. The American troop withdrawal this summer might prove too precipitous.
These warnings are serious and they should encourage renewed attention to governance processes in this fragile society. These warnings should also remind us how far we have come from pervasive insurgency to participatory election, from chaos to nascent political order. The efforts at cooperation, negotiation, and protection by various actors — Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, American, and even Iranian — deserve credit. The efforts to turn around a disastrous situation deserve hope.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.