Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hamid Shafi al-Issawi

Iraqi Elections Encouraging

Terrible violence continues to upset Iraq — at least 35 dead from suicide bombings in Baghdad, 25 Sunni family members slain south of Baghdad. But this Rod Nordland article buried deep in the New York Times presents a glowing account of the last election — and appropriately so. He notes that voters made discerning decisions. The outcome reveals some notable trends:

Sectarianism is still a force in Iraq, but no longer the only significant force, as it was five years ago in the first election after Saddam Hussein fell. While some religious parties did well, it wasn’t well enough to dictate who will form a government….

Nor was tribalism a guarantee of victory. One tribal leader, Hamid Shafi al-Issawi, had counted on the 50,000 votes of his huge Issawi tribe in Anbar Province; he couldn’t even muster the few thousand votes needed to take a seat….

And (Boston, take note), the patronage vote was nearly nonexistent. Interior Minister Jawadal-Bolani, whose 500,000-strong ministry includes the local and national police, got only 3,000 votes and lost his seat, even though he headed his own list.

As a sign of how well the situation is going, Nordland quotes the Times‘ local correspondent in Fallujah, Saeed al-Jumaily, who has worked for the newspaper for seven years but for the first time feels “confident enough in the future to see his name published in it.”

A lot of bad things can — and probably will — still happen in Iraq but the election outcome, at least so far, hardly validates overblown fears that Iraq is “falling apart.” If anything it shows that, in one place at least, Arabs are taking to the democratic process with heartening enthusiasm.

Terrible violence continues to upset Iraq — at least 35 dead from suicide bombings in Baghdad, 25 Sunni family members slain south of Baghdad. But this Rod Nordland article buried deep in the New York Times presents a glowing account of the last election — and appropriately so. He notes that voters made discerning decisions. The outcome reveals some notable trends:

Sectarianism is still a force in Iraq, but no longer the only significant force, as it was five years ago in the first election after Saddam Hussein fell. While some religious parties did well, it wasn’t well enough to dictate who will form a government….

Nor was tribalism a guarantee of victory. One tribal leader, Hamid Shafi al-Issawi, had counted on the 50,000 votes of his huge Issawi tribe in Anbar Province; he couldn’t even muster the few thousand votes needed to take a seat….

And (Boston, take note), the patronage vote was nearly nonexistent. Interior Minister Jawadal-Bolani, whose 500,000-strong ministry includes the local and national police, got only 3,000 votes and lost his seat, even though he headed his own list.

As a sign of how well the situation is going, Nordland quotes the Times‘ local correspondent in Fallujah, Saeed al-Jumaily, who has worked for the newspaper for seven years but for the first time feels “confident enough in the future to see his name published in it.”

A lot of bad things can — and probably will — still happen in Iraq but the election outcome, at least so far, hardly validates overblown fears that Iraq is “falling apart.” If anything it shows that, in one place at least, Arabs are taking to the democratic process with heartening enthusiasm.

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