Asian Georgia's Democracy Lesson for Iraq
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
After parliamentary elections widely regarded as rigged, protesters stormed into the building where the new parliament of Georgia was in session. The former Soviet republic of Georgia has been ruled by president Eduard Shevardnadze, previously the foreign minister of the USSR. Shevardnadze was led out of the building by his bodyguards, but refused to resign. He declared a state of emergency in Georgia.
The president of Georgia had been regarded by the chiefs of the USA and Europe as a leader of the reform movement during the last years of the Soviet Union. But as leader of Georgia, he has presided over an economy that has been deteriorating despite substantial amounts of aid from the US and other countries. Now, with charges of corruption and misrule, many Georgians are calling for him to resign.
Georgia serves as a warning for what could happen in Iraq. The U.S. is sacrificing great amounts of lives and treasure in Iraq, but to what end? The U.S. has accomplished two things in Iraq. First, it has withdrawn from the big military base in Saudi Arabia. Second, the trade blockage against Iraq has been lifted. There is one more mission to accomplish: a democratic government that will not threaten other countries.
Here is where Georgia serves as a stern warning. Everything the U.S. wants for Iraq was done in Georgia. There was a reformist president and democratic elections. Georgia was to be a model for the middle east. Now the model is a muddle. That's because Georgians adopted the western model of mass democracy, which cannot work in places where democracy did not evolve over such long periods of time until it became deeply embedded in the culture.
Now Iraq instead of learning from Georgia is going to follow the same failed and tragic path. Yes, the U.S. can hold elections in Iraq. Yes, they will write a beautiful constitution in Iraq. Yes, there will be an elected government that blows thankful kisses at America. Yes, American troops will start to depart. But it will not be "mission accomplished."
Old Sadamites and new religious supremacists will continue with bombs and destruction. There will be calls for an Islamic Republic. Many will feel under-represented and regard the elections as unfair. Many will want more autonomy than allowed by the central government. As in Georgia, there will be charges of corruption and mismanagement. When the oil flows, profits will be siphoned. There will be protests, riots, and revolts. Masses will surround parliament in Baghdad. Even though elected, the president and representatives in parliament will be regarded as American puppets.
A strong man, whether a religious supremacist or nationalist or military, will lead an army to the houses of government, where they will overthrow the elected officials, scrap the beautiful constitution, and establish a dictatorship. Like Napoleon after the revolution in France, the new dictator of Iraq may invade nearby countries to unite the people of Iraq and restore the greatness of old Mesopotamia. Perhaps the new dictator will attack Israel like ancient Babylon did when it conquered Jerusalem and removed the Israelites from the city, only this time, it would be a war of extermination. Israel would retaliate with atomic weapons, and the whole Middle East would be in nuclear flames.
There is only one way to avoid this disaster. True democracy must be grounded in the villages and city neighborhoods. There are already locally elected councils in Iraq, but they are only advisory. The U.S. and its coalition partners must immediately empower the councils with the full authority to govern. Then the coalition must transfer sovereignty to the councils. The council representatives should be recallable at any time the voters want to hold a new election. Even though the process was started by Americans, the representatives will be of and by the people. Iraqis would regard their local councils as true self-rule.
These councils will then elect the provincial and city governments. Those governments will then elect representatives to the national parliament. The parliament will then elect the president from one of its members. Any time the parliament members don't approve of the president, they can replace him. That will eliminate the problem of a president who is not wanted and refuses to resign.
The public revenue for the councils should also be local. The best source of local revenue is land rent. Land does not shrink, hide, or flee when taxed. Basing public revenue on land value or land rent, the local councils will be the source of funds rather than be dependent on the central government for funds.
With this bottom-up process, people will not feel unrepresented. If there is election fraud, it will be localized rather than nation-wide, so less damaging and easier to repair. A strong man will find it much more difficult to topple the national government, because the electorate is divided into small cells rather than a national mass. Like those animals where if you cut a part off it grows back, the local and provincial councils can just elect a new council if the old one is removed. The police should also be decentralized, authorized and paid for by the local councils, so they would be very difficult to control.
With a quick transfer of real power and sovereignty to the people and councils of Iraq, the opposition to American and coalition forces would the lifted. The Americans would be there only at the invitation of the councils; where asked to leave, they would go.
There are no guarantees in politics, but such a bottom-up decentralized power base is the best and only hope for stability and peace in Iraq. The mass-democracy model has failed in Georgia, just as it failed again and again in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and even in Europe, where in Germany it ended in the Nazi takeover. The mass media in the U.S. have failed to face this reality. The U.S.. government has not learned from history. We are on a Titanic heading towards a horrible disaster, and the only lifeboats are decentralized, bottom-up, cellular democracies getting their public revenue from land rent.
The slogan for Iraq should be: Power to the Iraqi councils! Local democracy now! We need a movement for decentralized democracy, and it has to start right now. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper today. Do it right now!
-- 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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