Local Democracy Established in Iraq!
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Little reported in the press, the U.S.-led Coalition administration in Iraq has held elections in Iraq, where the people have voted for representatives to local village and urban neighborhood councils. Neighborhood Advisory Councils have been elected under the authority of Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III and the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority. I previously advocated that the Coalition administration quickly establish democracy in Iraq by starting locally. I don't know if what I wrote had any impact on the officials in charge, but it was the logical thing to do, and the U.S.-led Coalition has indeed begun to fulfill its pledge to establish democracy in Iraq.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) in its May 22, 2003, "Current Situation" news release stated that the development of the Baghdad City Advisory Council, starting at the neighborhood level, was underway.
Initial neighborhood councils were formed on May 19, and representatives from each neighborhood created a Municipal Advisory Council. 1st Lt. Jason P. Beck reports in his article Neighborhood Advisory Councils: democracy at the community level that representatives from each of the 88 Neighborhood Advisory Councils elected representatives to send to the next level, the District Advisory Council. The district councils then elected representatives to the Baghdad City Council. Beck states, "Eventually, this example of neighborhood cooperation will be used as a standard throughout Iraq." May it be so! This is exactly the bottom-up cellular-democracy method I have been advocating!
As reported by Bassem Mroue for the Associated Press, the neighborhood councils of Baghdad held a joint session with representatives from the national Governing Council on July 27 to consider the city's infrastructure and issues. The Interim Advisory Neighborhood Council consists of representatives from Baghdad's 88 neighborhoods.
Samir Shakir Mahmoud, a member of the national Governing Council, declared, "It is the beginning of enfranchisement of the Iraqi cities, especially in Baghdad." Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who represented Bremer, said "this is a great moment for you and Iraq. It is a great moment of democracy. It is the time when you are taking responsibilities."
Cynics have doubted the U.S. government's intention to establish democracy in Iraq. While the press has, quite properly, prominently reported the dramatic bombings and continuing killing of U.S. soldiers, the quiet establishment of democratic councils has been little noted, yet this in the long run is a more momentous development.
It's good that the Iraqi national council, appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is working with the elected councils. This process should be carried further. The advisory neighborhood and village councils should become actually governing councils. Provincial and municipal governments should be elected by the local and district councils. Finally, the national council or parliament should be elected by the provincial councils. The new Iraqi constitution should be written by such an elected parliament.
The Coalition Authority should declare that sovereignty in Iraq now rests with the people and their local councils. The Coalition would then be working for the councils and the Iraqi people. The Coalition should also hold a nation-wide referendum in Iraq to vote on whether the Coalition troops should continue to be in Iraq or leave. If the Iraqis vote to have them stay for the time being, then this will establish the legitimacy of the Coalition.
A problem establishing democracy in Iraq is violence by the opponents of democracy. Old Sadamites and fanatic religious supremacists both oppose democracy and accuse elected councils of collaborating with the occupation. That is why the Coalition should quickly hold a referendum in Iraq so that if the people vote to have the foreign troops remain, then the terrorists will rightly be seen as attacking not just the U.S. and its Coalition allies but also and mainly the Iraqi people.
Meanwhile, my view is that the U.S. and its coalition partners should be congratulated and encouraged by this initial establishment of democracy in Iraq. Even those who opposed the war in Iraq should be glad that the seeds of democracy in Iraq have been sown. If these democratic sprouts are carefully cultivated, they will grow into a thriving orchard of democracy that will bear wonderful fruits not just for Iraq but for all the peoples of the conflicted Middle East.
-- 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.
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