Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Mistake 11 - Crony-cracy
In constructing the Iraq Governing Council (IGC), the American administration in Iraq (CPA) selected a number of people and parties and presented them to the Iraqi people as representing large segments of us! That, of course, was not true; The IGC was simply rejected by ordinary people and it proved to be one of the many mistakes made by the administration in running Iraq.
Now, the Interim Government has established a Supervisory Committee to oversee the election of a National Assembly. The committee has 99 members. The chairman of that committee was selected by the CPA and the IGC. All IGC members had automatic membership! The other members were appointed to this committee by God knows who and by what criteria! (I actually know some of these members to be decent people… but this is beside the point.)
Sub-committees were formed to supervise elections in the different provinces. Nominations were sought for membership of a National Congress of 1000 delegates now being held in Baghdad.
The composition of the National Congress of 1000 delegates is approximately:
99 members of the organizing committee (!) naturally including all members of "The Chosen" IGC!
360 members representing political parties, religious, tribal, intellectual "leaders" and civil society organizations.
548 delegates from the provinces (counties, also known as governorates)
[I know, the numbers don't add up to 1000]
The past few weeks saw conventions in all provinces so that "nominees" would select those 548 people in the last category. There was popular discontent and, more dangerously, apathy!
It seems that there were many applications; the province committees" filtered" those applications to reach a manageable number of people to take part in a local convention to elect delegates to go to the National Congress.
For example, in the Governorate of Babel (County of Babylon), there were about 4000 applicants; the committee selected 480 of those people to attend the "local" convention to elect 29 representatives for Babel. How 480 people were selected from 4000 nominees by that committee is still unknown.
In Najaf, the names of those selected were not available at 10 am on the morning of the convention!
In another province, a member of the Supervisory Committee, supported by armed militiamen is reported to have prevented candidates "selected by the committee" from entering the conference hall and allowed in members of his own party! (This unconfirmed story is reported by two Iraqi newspapers)
This is all very reminiscent of the old days. Many people may not know that during the reign of the past regime, there were elections for the National Assembly. Anyone who was eligible could, in theory, apply. Those who applied need not have been Baathists (true!). There was a supreme committee that revised and filtered the names of the applicants and issued a final list. Elections, believe it or not, were completely democratic! Control was practiced well upstream of the actual election process. People were presented with a choice of candidates all of whom were already approved by the powers supervising the democratic process.
This is exactly what happened this time. Does the fact that the candidates are pro-somebody-else make the process more democratic?
As we say in Iraq: Today is so much like yesterday!
The sad result is that people will lose all faith in the Interim Government's pledge to institute democracy in Iraq.
People will even be more convinced than they are at the moment that the US administration, working behind the scene this time, wants "their people" to remain in power; that they do not really care for true democracy; that all they want is "cronies" in power in a system of government that "looks" democratic!
People are wondering if this is the kind of "democracy" that the US wants to bring to Iraq. So much long-term damage is being done to America, to Iraq and to the name of democracy through short-sighted "political engineering"!
They are wrong of course: long-lasting friendships are not built this way! If they lose the faith of the people, what would they be left with?
I firmly believe that in Iraq, as in other countries, the majority of people are reasonable, decent and moderate. True democracy may produce some ugly results sometimes but, in the longer term, if the process itself is fair and honest, the result will be good… and tolerance and moderation will win the day!
Democracy is a process! It is a process that has to be guarded against power-hungry politicians and short-sighted administrations.