Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Democracy still denied

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The "Democracy Denied in Iraq" counter on the right side of this page reads 59 today, 59 days since the election that was supposed to fix everything.

And the headline in the Washington Post reads "Effort to Form Iraqi Government Collapses." I guess the counter is likely to be around for a while longer. Maybe a long while.

The swirling stories change daily. Religious and ethnic conflict is preventing the formation of a government. Or concerns over past crimes of the Ba'ath or Allawi eras. Or over who gets to control the oil. Or over who is too corrupt.

It is easy for the Post to caricature today's aborted session of the Assembly:

" 'Why don't you give us the details of what is going on in this democratic process?" said the robed lawmaker, whose identity was not discernible from a television feed that was journalists' only access to the session.

"What shall we tell those who sacrificed their lives in the 30th of January?" lawmaker Hussein Sadr, whose own bloc has been linked to this week's latest delay, asked the assembly.

"Speed up!" Sadr said.

Assembly leaders abruptly ordered news cameras out of the hall after 22 minutes.

For the Iraqi public, television broadcasts of what was only the second session of their new parliament snapped to black, then went to a Saddam Hussein-era-style tape of a popular singer warbling an Iraqi national anthem.


But the real story is clear, if we'll just look. US administrator Paul Bremer set conditions for the formation of an Iraqi government in the Transitional Administrative Law that ensure that the elected majority cannot rule. The requirement for two-thirds of the Assembly to elect the Prime Minister is a recipe for stalemate.

And stalemate ensures the failure of the new government. Already, what passes for Iraqi government has been in limbo for two months; bureaucracies give up on working, waiting for news about who the new boss will be. The TAL requires this new government to write a constitution by August, something that becomes less likely by the day.

What indeed will the people who risked their lives to vote on January 30 think? Probably exactly what they feared already: the US occupiers had no intention of returning Iraq to its people and no plan to leave, ever.

1 comment:

janinsanfran said...

Today the NYT got around to noticing that the TAL has some problems. Link.

Senior politicians, particularly Shiite Arabs, are now attacking the TAL for enshrining a process that they see as contributing to the deadlock. They are especially critical of the measure that requires a two-thirds vote by the national assembly to appoint a president, and they point out that the law fails to set a deadline for the appointment.

“This is really sort of a weakness in the TAL,” said Adnan Ali, a deputy head of the Dawa Islamic Party, the Shiite party whose leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is the top candidate for prime minister. “It’s an obstruction rather than an assurance. This should have been done differently.”

Mr. Ali and other politicians acknowledge that hardheaded self-interest among the various factions has caused the delays, but they say the transitional law could have set a lower bar for consensus and specified more deadlines.

In most countries with parliamentary systems, the party that wins a simple majority of the seats has the right to install an executive government, legal experts say. Here, the main Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance, won 140 of 275 assembly seats in the Jan. 30 elections, but must ally with one or more partners to form a coalition government because of the two-thirds rule.…

Iraqis have grown disillusioned and restless, and the day-to-day workings of ministries have slowed because of the uncertainty. American commanders have warned of a possible rise in violence.

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