The euphoria of polling day, [Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular Sunni politician] points out, eclipsed the fact that the elections were scarcely the informed, rational contest of policies that is supposed to characterise a democracy. Inexperienced in the ways of multiparty politics after decades of totalitarianism, millions of Iraqis voted for the Sunni and Shia religious parties simply because they thought they would go to hell if they didn't. "My own brother told me that the imam in his local mosque told him to vote for the Twaffaq [a Sunni religious party] if he wanted to join Mohammed in the afterlife," said Mr Mutlaq. "And it was the same with the Shias. Their hands would shake with fear if they didn't mark the box for their religious parties."The glory of democracy is not that it promotes (or creates out of wholecloth) a disinterested, rational, informed electorate. The next disinterested, rational, informed electorate will be the first. Rather, democracy over time gains legitimacy as a means for sublimating ethnic or religious or class warfare. Jockeying for votes and position replaces open warfare, slavery and dictatorship. Anyone who's even heard of the NEA, Al Sharpton, James Michael Curly or AFSCME and still thinks that Iraqi democracy is differentiated from American democracy by sectarianism or jobs for the boys is simply delusional.
Political choices were also made in the expectation of jobs for the boys, a legacy of the nepotism that was a hallmark of Saddam's Ba'ath party era. Mithal al-Alusi, another secular Sunni, was convinced he was a hot ticket for prime minister when nearly 100,000 people joined his tiny, underfunded party. When they then scraped just one parliamentary seat, he realised people had only joined up in the belief that a party membership card might come in handy one day. "We had delegations of sheikhs coming up to lend us their support, but they probably went to every other party as well," he said, stirring coffee in his villa in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "They thought they would get some sort of benefits if we got into power. That's the old way, the Ba'ath Party way, and now the Islamists are doing the same."
11 March 2007
Have These People Ever Visited A Democracy?
John Derbyshire approvingly quotes some other Brit as saying, about Iraqi democracy, that:
Posted by David at 2:01 PM