Immediate Democracy for Iraq!
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
As I write, coalition troops control Baghdad Airport and have ventured into the capital city. It's time now to focus on the future of Iraq. The past and what could have been is now sunk.
Plans are being made for governing the country after the war is ended. While some sort of military-led governing may be needed to prevent looting and further violence, the authorities need to move quickly to establish real democracy in Iraq.
Critics claim that it is hopeless to establish democracy in a country that has been ruled so long by a repressive regime. They are correct regarding conventional democracy as practiced in the world today. The agenda setters would have control, and the mass of voters would have little choice other than what the parties offer them.
Money and power would set that agenda, not the people. It would be almost impossible for any ordinary person to win office without money or party backing. There could be voting fraud and exclusion from voting. There would be conflicts among ethnic and religious groups, and among Iraqis who have been outside the country and those inside the country.
For a fresh democracy, conventional patterns will not do. They need to start small and build their way up. Power must begin close to the people. The authorities should begin in the villages and countryside, holding elections for councils in small-sized communities, where candidates would be known to the voters, and where one could be elected without money and power. Such small local elections could take place in a very short time.
The larger towns would then be divided into neighborhoods, each electing a council. The cities, including Baghdad, would also be divided into very small electoral districts, with no more than a thousand persons in each. There would then be instant democracy throughout Iraq. That would show the world that the coalition victors were serious about handing power to the Iraqi people.
The councils would immediately be given authority over the neighborhood civic works, such as the streets, and also establish local security guards. To obtain revenues, the councils would select a committee to assess the land rent of each parcel in the neighborhood, and then the owners would pay a monthly assessment based on the rent.
After the councils are elected, the authorities can draw them together in county-type districts holding about 20 villages or neighborhoods, with a population of about 20,000. Each village or neighborhood council would send a representative to the county council. The county-level council would have responsibility for services within their territory which the neighborhoods and villages choose to delegate to them. To pay for this, the village and neighborhood councils would pass on some of their rent revenue to the county council.
Then groups of about 20 county-level councils would be grouped together to form a regional council. The county-level councils would elect representatives to the regional council, the region having about 400,000 inhabitants. They would have responsibility for the major highways and other large infrastructure, and they would receive funding from the county-level councils. Neither the regional nor the county-level councils would have the power to tax.
Finally, the regional councils would send representatives to the national parliament. This bottom-up election process would keep power decentralized and prevent the capture of power by religious, ethnic, economic, and corporate interests. Each stage of election would only require a few weeks, since each election is within a small group. With small-group voting, fraud would be minimized and localized.
This small-group bottom-up process is a more direct and natural democracy than the mass democracy practiced in the world today. Just as an organism is based on cells, the democracy would be cellular, each village and neighborhood being a self-governing cell. Like a pyramid with a broad base, cellular democracy would be much more stable than today's mass voting.
Besides being subject to the power of special interests, today's mass democracies are dysfunctional. In parliamentary systems with proportional representation, political parties need to form coalitions, which often fall apart or have to subsidize small-party interests. Where the representatives are elected by geographic districts as in the USA, minority rights are often shunted aside, the election dominated by the two major parties. The parties require huge amounts of campaign funds, a structure that is inherently corrupting.
Mass democracy is bad enough in Europe, Japan, and America. In Iraq, it will fail miserably. Only cellular, bottom-up, democracy can possibly succeed. Only cellular democracy will be quick, stable, and strong. Only small-group bottom-up multi-level democracy can survive to set an example to the whole Middle East, to all people emerging from dictatorship, and indeed to all those in long-established democracies who know all too well how the moneyed classes capture power from the people.
Coalition chiefs: you have a unique opportunity to hand power to the people of Iraq for the first time in the long history of Mesopotamia. You must proclaim the motto: all power to the neighborhoods! Let power flow up from the people rather than be imposed down upon them. Only then shall your conquest be truly redeemed.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinion with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?