Iraq and Gulf Analysis

An Iraq Blog by a Victim of the Human Rights Crimes of the Norwegian Government

Blacklisted in Baghdad: Can Washington Fix Iraq’s Election Crisis?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Thursday, 28 January 2010 18:03

On why Iraq keeps blowing up in the face of the Obama administration, and what it can do to prevent this from happening again. Opinion piece at the website of Foreign Affairs; full article here.

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12 Responses to “Blacklisted in Baghdad: Can Washington Fix Iraq’s Election Crisis?”

  1. Reidar,
    The idea of a human rights UN commissioner is an excellent politically correct step, I hope the Obama administration will sponsor it before the elections. I also hope that Pres. Obama will back its funtion by promise of action well before polling takes place in order to induce some hope of positive change and encourage participation.

  2. bb said

    Reidar, I’m wondering if you think the Obama administration should also be insisting on a UN Special Rapporteur for elections in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran et al?

    Why single out Iraq?

  3. Reidar Visser said

    Faisal, thanks for good dialogue on this subject. I am optimistic with regard to a special rapporteur for two reasons: It is practicable, even at this late stage, and it is neutral. The idea is simply to have an extra tier of scrutiny for the elections without any links to the structures of power that have evolved in Iraq since 2003. Lami wanted to create a sense of intimidation; I think the antidote is to provide a glimmer of hope. Without it, these elections will be tainted from the get-go.

    BB, no one pretends that there is real democracy in the countries you mention. On the other hand, the international community has invested heavily in the idea of post-2003 Iraq as a democratic project. That vision is now in doubt after the dubious antics of the de-Baathification commission. Simply put, to avoid the need for stop-gap conferences on the Afghanistan/London pattern next autumn, it is better to implement some positive measures prior to the vote.

  4. Salah said

    That vision is now in doubt after the dubious antics of the de-Baathification commission.

    Reidar, excuse me to I disagree with you in post-2003 Iraq as a democratic project and above statement.

    The Iraqi constitution written on sectarian agenda, that was clearly from the lines of the constitution. Following the heavily sectarians agenda by people US put in power after the handover.

    The democratic process in Iraq has suffered from the start ill setup and doubtable future which lead to today crises.

    It’s expected from a people that US depend on from start who have very strong Iranians love deep in their souls more than working to Iraq and Iraqi citizens or caring about the future of Iraq as independent nation without interference or laying on Iran style.

    I think first step to correct this is to review the Iraqi constitution in light of the past experience and let start things right from the basses not from the heads.

  5. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, I presented the idea of a special rapporteur precisely with Iraqis who are critical of the post-2003 system (like yourself) in mind. Of course there are problems with the constitution, but I think it is of paramount importance that Iraqis who are critical to the existing system understand that the international community is not going to help them to a brand new start by going back to square one (for example by convening a new constituent assembly). That is one hundred percent utopian. With the exception of the neighbours, the only international player vaguely interested in interfering in the nitty-gritty of Iraqi politics is the United States and they are on their way out now and getting less involved by the day. My sense is that a special rapporteur is probably more or less the maximum that Iraqis who are critical of the system can realistically hope for, but I think it is this sort of small and symbolic but hopeful measure that can help change the climate and push towards good participation in the 7 March elections (and therefore an election result that not even the current system will dare to forge). That in turn would enable constitutional revision.

    But this all requires that secularists and nationalists unite on something – whether a special rapporteur or something else that is similarly realistic – that they demand from the international community, loud and clear. Today I heard Nehru Abd al-Karim was talking about the International Criminal Court, not sure whether that is going to be particularly helpful.

  6. JScott said

    Reidar,

    Great piece. One concern. Even if worse comes to worst and the entire 511 are not over turned by the court of cassation panel, I think we should be careful of using language that would suggest that barring a subset of candidates, however stupid or outrageous, will delegitmize the entire election process. As you and others have pointed out the banning has mobilized al Mutlak’s base, for instance. If a majority or more (or even less) of the Iraqi people vote, the elections will be legitimate, provided the other institutional safeguards of the process are in place. Just because people choose to boycott an electoral process does not make the process illegitimate.

    Also, I’m told by good sources that the 59 reinstated candidates are out of a total of 59 cases considered so far by the court suggesting that all of the 511 will ultimately be reinstated. Does this square with what you’re hearing??

  7. Salah said

    the existing system understand that the international community is not going to help them to a brand new start by going back to square one

    Reidar, your points taken, I do agree its internal matter between Iraqis themselves.

    what my point about constitution is as soon as this constitution still as it is, there is room for more sectarian differences and conflicts. The Iraqi today need quietly close the doors in there constitutions.

    One one part that US can help because they support these guys from start to minimise Iranian flavour from imposing on Iraqi politics and affecting this discussion and push it through before they leave.

  8. bb said

    So UN special rapporteurs should not be imposed on sovereign states which are not democracies, only on those who are?

    In that case, I suggest your case would be stronger if you were arguing that the international community should be investing more “heavily” in democracy “projects” for Iraq’s sovereign neighbours with UN special rapporteurs attached? Then your arguments might carry more weight.

  9. Reidar Visser said

    BB, a special rapporteur should only be imposed on sovereign states where the international community has already made substantial investments to transform them into democracies, and where profound crises like the de-Baathification case reveal that they are very far from democratic standards and could be on their way towards a collapse of the democratic structures as such.

  10. bb said

    Reidar, in saying that a “UN special rapporteur should only be imposed on sovereign states where the international community has already made substantial investments to transform them into democracies” just re-inforces my point that the international community should therefore be making substantial investments to transform them into democracies?

    In the absence of doing this, the “international community” can expect to have very little leverage with the democratically elected and constituted government of the Iraqi sovereign state. I’m sure you would agree?

    “where profound crises like the de-Baathification case reveal that they are very far from democratic standards and could be on their way towards a collapse of the democratic strucutres as such.”

    Profound? Collapse of democratic structures? Been bookmarked and remains to seen, Reidar. In the meantime the process goes through appeal.

  11. Reidar Visser said

    No BB, I strongly disagree. There is a difference between on the one hand embracing the idea of democratisation by military intervention universally, and, on the other, recommending measures for improving the prospects of democracy in the specific case of Iraq once the intervention has taken place and cannot be reversed.

    I’ d really encourage you to re-read some of the other articles on this subject, and you will find that your belief in “due process” in today’s Iraq is based on fiction. I cannot repeat for the nth time all the points already cited, but just to take two of the more grotesque ones, consider the abrupt reduction of the appeals period from 30 days in the law to 3 days in the letter issued by the IHEC, and the recourse to Paul Bremer’s sweeping CPA order 97 as basis for the wholesale exclusion of Hiwar and 8 other entities. No reference to the accountability and justice act, no reference to the constitution (why do you think that is?), no nothing, just a message saying that the IHEC can ban any entity headed by leaders whose faces they don’t like. This is a democracy in deep crisis and by taking no action ahead of the election the international community is creating a regime in Iraq devoid of democratic legitimacy.

    JScott, Rashid al-Azzawi said yesterday that 95 appeals had been received and that about 62 of them would reportedly be accepted. Add to that the factor of intimidation against those many hundreds who dropped out of the process altogether, and the climate of fear that hits all Iraqis as a result of this. Also it has been confirmed today that the case against Salih al-Mutlak is supposedly under chapter 7 of the constitution, for which the jurisdiction of the accountability and justice board is unclear and certainly not specified in the accountability and justice act.

  12. JScott,
    Great comment, the issue is legitimizing the vote process, I agree.
    I think the two main threats to legitimate elections are massive boycott and massive vote rigging. I think we agree that massive boycott will not happen, but vote rigging is more likely due to recent situations in Iran and Afghanistan. A UN Commissioner can add weight in resolving vote rigging issues and thus deciding the legitimacy of the elections.

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