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Friday, January 28, 2005

This weekend will produce yet another watershed moment in the development of democracy in the Middle East when Iraqis dodge the bullets and bombs Sunday to vote in the country's first-ever democratic election. Plenty of scorn and skepticism have been dumped upon the idea of elections in such an unstable country: Will they be considered legitimate? Will the Sunnis proceed with their boycott? Do the elections really mean anything, or are they purely symbolic? Will they do more to foster civil war than democracy? Will election day result in the bloodiest day yet in Iraq?

Legitimate questions all, but I'm not going to add to the skepticism. What's important to understand is that these elections are only a first step and they will not change things overnight. I honestly hope the elections happen and I hope they happen with little strife and violence. Is that realistic? No, but we can still hope.

With more than 100 political parties and 275 seats to be filled, Iraq's first election promises to be a confusing one for sure. While the election process in Iraq may dramatically differ from our own here in the States, there are some similarities. For example, this editorial from the Capitol Times in Madison states:
"Even the top contenders for positions in the soon-to-be-organized National Assembly appear to be having their doubts about whether it makes sense to go forward with an election when most voters do not know who the candidates are or what they stand for."
Unfamiliar with the candidates? Uninformed about the issues? Of course you can go forward Iraq, that's exactly how we do things here! And then there is the ultra-ironic similarities between the insurgents in Iraq vowing to disrupt the elections and the very folks here in Washington vowing to conduct them amid the violence:
"The radical Ansar al-Sunnah Army and two other insurgent groups issued a statement Thursday warning that democracy was un-Islamic. Democracy could lead to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting homosexual marriage, if the majority of people agreed to it, the statement said."
Hmmmm, sounds oddly similar to one of Bush's stump speeches, no?

Good luck Iraq, even we dissenters are hoping things work out this weekend. And remember, make sure your ballot is punched all the way through – lord knows we don't want your first voting experience marred by any pregnant or dangling chads. Oh, and if your ballot is ticking, drop it and run, your vote wont' count if it explodes.

Iraqi Elections: A Primer (video)
The Iraq Vote: Who's Running?
Mark Fiore: Missed Opportunities in Iraq
CS Monitor: Messy First Steps

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