Saturday, January 31, 2009

റിയല് ദിഫ്ഫെരെന്സ് in Iraq

January 31, 2009

Bringing out a real
difference in Iraq

Iraqis vote today in provincial elections widely seen as first real test of their country's US-engineered democracy. Whether Iraqis reject or accept peaceful transfers of power will be the first credible indication of whether departing US troops will leave behind a democratic Iraq or a failed state. That is indeed assuming that the US would indeed deliver on President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw American military forces from Iraq.
Of course, there are many who believe that the rival groups in Iraq are merely holding their fire and practising democracy until the US military withdraws and there would be an immediate eruption of massive violence after the last American soldier leaves the country.
In the meantime, uncertainty and tension are running high in Baghdad on the eve of the provincial vote when Iraqis will vote to elect their representatives to occupy 444 seats in 14 of Iraq's 18 provincial councils. There are more than 14,000 candidates representing some 400 political groups.
It is indeed the first occasion that for the people of Iraq to accept that change can come through ballots rather than bullets.
The level of violence in the country has gone down but scores continue to be killed daily. Critical infrastructure such as supply of electricity and water remains shattered. There are still more people leaving the country than there are returning to their homes.
Still, there is indeed hope among Iraqis that the elections will bring more stability and improve their lives.
Since the late 50s, the Iraqis have seen only a series of military coups where their leaders seized power at the point of a gun. These include those who entered parliament and assumed office even after the US-led invasion in 2003. The parliamentary elections were tainted by violence that kept people from the polling booths, boycotts by some segments of the electorate and charges of
fraud and intimidation. Religious leaders supported by militiamen decided whether people should vote and whom they should elect.
Saturday's vote is crucial because most Iraqi groups are taking part in the process. Many who once fought against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the American military are among the candidates. They are hoping that the vote would produce the changes they seek. If it doesn't then, they have declared, they would pick up their guns again.
The Iraqis need to make today's provincial elections a success so that they could take matters into their own hands and decide the future of the country. Credible elections would see many new faces emerging into the political scene and replace most of those who lived in exile during the reign of the Saddam Hussein regime. And the new faces would be in a better position to bring about real changes in the way the country is run. That is the challenge facing the Iraqi voters today.