The current electoral law is biased to ensure the occupying authorities remain in control. Abdul-Ilah Al-Bayaty* proposes an alternative vision
December 3, 2004 - Iraq needs a democratic state based on equality among all its citizens, with no discrimination, exclusion, or marginalisation. Iraq needs a state run by the people, through freely elected institutions. Only such a state can achieve social peace, run the country's finances, pass acceptable laws, and allow cultural, political, ethnic, and religious diversity to flourish in a climate free from terror, oppression, delusion, hatred, and conflict.
Only such a state can meet the needs of the Iraqis, who deserve to live like any of the world's advanced nations. Iraq needs to emerge from the social, economic, and political turmoil that has gripped the country since 1958 and hampered its efforts to achieve progress and attain prosperity. It is now possible to bring about such state. It is possible because our people know -- after years of living under successive dictatorships -- that the ballot box is the fastest way to reconciliation, that dialogue is the best method of resolving problems with the other Arab and Islamic countries, and that democracy is the best form of government.
Occupation is the opposite of democracy, for it is a way of deciding, through military force, the future and laws of the country. Occupation undermines Iraq's right to independence, sovereignty, and self-determination, a right upheld by international laws and defended by the resolve of our people.
The upcoming constitutive assembly elections should be the first step towards a democratic state in Iraq. The UN Security Council has called for the holding of these elections, but the occupation authorities and their allies are trying to turn them into a farce, a charade held under the heels of American soldiers and carried out in between, and during, bombardments. The occupation authorities and their allies want their laws to govern the elections, and their agencies to run them.
The constitutive assembly will write the country's permanent constitution. This assembly should be elected through the participation of all Iraqi groups without exception. Otherwise, it will lose its legitimacy, and be reduced to a propaganda ploy on the part of the occupying forces.
The elections have to be fair and free and held with the participation of all Iraqis, for on these elections rests not only the fate of our permanent constitution, but the entire future of our country. Any fraud, interference, or obstruction of the freedom and right of citizens to participate would rob the elections of their meaning and credibility.
The constitutive assembly will have to discuss and even pass legislation on such crucial matters as the Kurdish issue, the structure of the state, the oil industry, the country's economy, labour rights, the army and security policy, and the withdrawal of foreign troops from our soil. There is also the matter of compensation for the damage done to Iraq by the US-UK invasion, as well as Iraq's relations with the rest of the world. These are all issues that will affect Iraq's future for decades to come.
The occupation authorities and their allies want to use the elections as an alibi for their continued rule. But the Iraqi people will not fall into this trap. The Iraqis are going to boycott the elections, and they will resist those who seek to silence them, and who deserve only their attempt. The only elections acceptable to the Iraqis would be those which meet the following conditions:
1. The departure of all foreign troops ahead of the elections, or at the very least, an enforceable timetable for their withdrawal. In the latter case, all foreign troops should withdraw from the Iraqi cities ahead of the elections and stop carrying out military operations against Iraqi cities and villages. The occupation authorities must pledge to pay compensation for the damage they have inflicted on Iraq since the invasion.
2. The unconditional release of all political detainees, including those who took up arms against the occupation.
3. The cessation of ethnic cleansing campaigns against Ashurites, Turcomans, and Arabs.
4. The electoral process should be governed by the UN Security Council resolutions, and not by the laws passed by the occupiers, as the latter are designed to influence the outcome of the elections.
5. The current elections committee must be disbanded and replaced with an agency representing all Iraqi parties. The role of the new agency would be to approve the election procedures. The elections themselves should be supervised by one or more appropriate international bodies, such as the UN, the EU, the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, or the Carter Foundation.
6. The elections agency should ensure that all Iraqi citizens are allowed to take part in the elections, both as voters and as candidates -- former Baathists and militia members included.
7. The elections agency should prevent the interim government, which has been appointed by the occupation authorities, from influencing the elections whether through financial gifts, control of the media, or acts of violence.
8. The elections should be held under a law which allows all Iraqi parties to be represented in the constitutive assembly. To this end, Iraq should be divided into electoral constituencies of roughly equal size, and the winning candidates in each constituency would be those who receive the majority of the votes cast, just as in the US, the UK, and France.
9. The occupiers and the interim government must undertake to abide by the outcome of the elections, even if their candidates lose.
* The writer is an Iraqi political analyst based in France.
Thanks to Dirk Adriaensens