The majority of Iraq has voted in provincial elections today, with a very minimum of violence, as I had hoped. Which is great news but unsurprising given the massive security lockdown mounted for the event. Razorwire cordons, security checkpoints, closed airports and a total ban on vehicular traffic in cities - all just to have an election. Still, that it happened at all is encouraging, even if far from the shining victory the American right are hailing it as. I hate to rain on their victory parade but there are a couple of flies in their Mission Accomplished" ointment.
Not least, of course, that such elections might never have happened at all if the Bush administration had had its way. Despite the popularity nowadays of the conservative meme that Bush wanted to bring democracy to Iraq, Paul Bremer, head of the CPA, had wanted to simply keep US-appointed tame politicos in power. But Ayatollah Sistani demanded real elections with thinly veiled hints of a general Shiite insurrection to go with the Sunni-led insurgency if no elections were held, and a quick historical revision swifty ensued.
But there are still deep-seated problems in Iraq which these provincial election's won't touch, or will actually make worse. The Kurdish North didn't participate and neither did the disputed region of Kirkuk. Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga have already faced off there a few times and most analysts see Kurdish aspirations as the primary future source of violence. Then there's the resurgent Sunni minority, where the old and entirely undemocratic tribal power structure is set to be the election winner. And among Shiites, factional infighting which has fractured Maliki's own coalition heavily, looks to be another potential source of future violence. We may not know the full results for a month or more and there are going to be divisive allegations of intimidation, vote-rigging and double-crossing to navigate.
These elections are a good thing, but they're not a universal panacea. Still, the American Right wants to have its cake and eat it. They want to pretend that provincial elections mean "victory" while getting ready to blame only Obama if Iraqi social fractures ignored by Bush for so long lead to more violence later.
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