By Naheem Zaffar
The Iraqi Elections were held in Iraq on the 30th January 2005. Or not held if you were in a Sunni area. So who won and what does this mean for Iraq and the wider world?
The United Iraqi Alliance, a Shia coalition endorsed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani won a major slice of power, taking over 47 percent of the ballots cast. The Kurdistan Alliance List came second with 25 percent, whilst the Prime Ministers Allawi's party came third.(1)
The Iraqi Islamic party, the largest Sunni party, had boycotted the elections, severely limiting the Sunni representation in the polls.
More important than the results is the spin, as politicians around the world will use these figures to justify their positions on Iraq.
Lies, Damn Lies and Stats
These elections are Iraq's first free and fair election since the 1950s. TV images showing long queues and blue thumb prints were surely a sign that the elections were a total success. Or were they?
Approximately 57% of the 'registered' voters actually cast their ballots, a turnout that looks very good considering the turbulent circumstances. But it must be made clear that there are approximately 14.8 million registered voters, whilst the CIA estimated in the June of 2004 there were over 25 million Iraqis(2). This gives a real Iraqi turnout of only 33%. In some Sunni areas it was estimated to be as low as 2%. (3)
The higher turnout from the Shia population was helped by the fact that the Shi'ite supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani formally endorsed a political party. He told voters “We're coming to vote because we weren't allowed to do so before. We're coming to vote because we want the Americans to leave.”(4)
A turnout of only 33% is not something you will read elsewhere considering these elections are being billed as the first free and fair election in Iraq for 50 years, and a highlight of American foreign policy. The figure of 57% is more acceptable, and will be used in the propaganda offensive to justify the war of Terror.
What have the elections achieved?
Are these elections proof of the democratic change in Iraq? That Iraq is on the path to peace? That power is being returned to the people? The simple answer in 'No'.
The elections do not mark a watershed for a new Iraq, as nothing has been decided or changed. However they have given a visible face to the Iraqi political process, highlighting the players who may be key in shaping a new Iraq.
These politicians will have to sit down and write a new constitution for Iraq; one that is acceptable to the Americans and the Iraqis. In that order of importance. Then real elections will be called for the leadership of Iraq.
What about the insurgency?
No one is predicting a calming of the insurgency in Iraq in the near future, no matter how successful the elections are seen. It is partly because a lot of the Iraqis do not see the elections as legitimate and feel unrepresented by the winners.
There is also an issue of the newly elected officials being seen as stooges brought in to do America's dirty work. However all this could change if the ordinary Iraqi's start to see improvement in their lives.
There are still concerns whether a new Shia led government would play fair with other groups, or will they lose control of the situation and lash out. The major Shia political parties have stated that they will work for a broad-based government to prevent such a scenario
The separatist minded Kurds have also accepted some compromises as they have managed to create the second largest voting bloc in Iraq and finally have some real political power.
The future of Iraq lies in the success and unity of the appointed representatives of Iraq, and whether they actually work for the benefit of the Iraqi people, react in a sectarian manner, or to the commands of their American overlords like many other puppet regimes.
At the same time British citizens must carefully watch the government and make sure it helps the people of Iraq, and does not widen the conflict by attacking others such as Syria and Iran.