Elections in Ukraine, Palestine, Iraq
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
It's good news that more countries are turning towards democracy, but the bad news is that they are copying flawed models of mass democracy. Still, it's better than dictatorship, so the global community should support and praise this turn, so long as the elections are honest.
Ukraine's elections shows one of the problems of mass democracy, its vulnerability to fraud. This former republic of the Soviet Union has fortunately adopted democracy, but it is a large and ideologically divided country. The people in the eastern part wish to be more closely aligned with Russia, while those in the western part, including terriotory that was part of Poland prior to World War II, wish to be more associated with Europe.
The reformist opposition candidate in Ukraine has demanded a re-vote, as he and his supporters claim that there was massive fraud. The parliament passed a resolution declaring that the vote was invalid. Big demonstrations in the streets will most likely pressure the government to have another vote, otherwise there will be civil disobedience and calls in the western areas for sessession. But some in the eastern regions will seek a split if the reformers win. Ukraine needs to decentralize power, including economic policy, so that it is not so important who is president.
Palestinian Arabs will be voting for the president of the Palestinian Authority on January 9. The Fatah party will hold a convention in the summer of 2005 to choose new leaders. But some Palestinians say that the selection of the Fatah candidate, Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, was controlled by Arafat's associates rather than being opened to the people. Unfortunately, the election will not bring peace, because the extremist groups will still refuse to recognize the right of Jews to live in Israel. The chiefs of Israel made a big mistake in failing to establish local Arab democracy in the post-1967 territories. The elected government of Palestine may not be able to control Gaza after Israel evacuates.
The elections for the national assembly and for provincial leaders in Iraq, scheduled for January 30, 2005, will be a pivotal event in world history. If they are held without significant fraud, it will be a turning point for the whole Middle East. But some of the political parties in Iraq, including the party of the current prime minister (though not Prime Minister Allawi), are calling for a delay in the voting, due to the continuing violence, intimidation of candidates and potential voters, and the desire for more time to complete the election infrastructure. Most of the violence is in the Sunni areas, which would further reduce Sunni participation. Some Sunni secular parties also want more time to make their views better known.
Shiite Muslims, the majority in Iraq, are seeking to have the elections as scheduled. The Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is opposed to a delay. The Iraqi Electoral Commission has declared that it has no legal authority to delay the voting. The interim constitution requires the election at the end of January.
It would be a catastrophe to postpone the Iraqi elections. First of all, the violence is not going to subside so long as there is a wide perception that the country is under American occupation. Only a genuine democracy can provide the evidence that Iraqis have regained real sovereignty. A postponement would signal another failure by the U.S. to bring peace and democracy to the country it claims to have liberated.
There are good reasons for a delay, but much stronger reasons to hold the elections as scheduled. As for the violence and intimidation, the parties should adjust the process to minimize the disruption. The vote should not take place all in one day, but be spread over two weeks. Hold the elections from January 30 to mid February. The polling places should be in mosques. That way, the terrorists will not know whether people are coming to pray or vote. Those who are afraid should be able to vote at home. Election officials can go door to door with ballots. If some parties choose to boycott the elections because they are not postponed, so be it. Those who vote will choose the representatives, and the others will be left out.
There are other steps that are scheduled in 2005 to shift more power to the Iraqis. If the elections are postponed, the whole schedule will be thrown off. This is only the preliminary election. Elections under the constitution to be completed in 2005 will be held at the end of 2005. As with Ukraine, the new Iraqi constitution should decentralize power so that Kurds and Sunnis will mostly rule themselves. Then it will not be so important who is the president of Iraq. Decentralization is as important as democracy.
There is a possibility that an Iraqi government elected in January would be dominated by Shiites. But they are supposed to be under the constitution, and need the support of the U.S. and its coalition partners. It could not be an anything-goes regime.
There are no good options in Iraq. The only possibility is the least-worst option, and that is to hold the elections as scheduled, but modified to limit the intimidation by the insurgents. The global community of peace-seekers should support the January elections, flawed as they are, because the alternative could be a victory for violence that would escalate terror world-wide and have catastrophic consequences.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2004 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?