Iraq: Wisdom Instead of Intimidation and Blood


12-12-05, 9:26 am

Only few days separate us from the forthcoming election. As this date approaches, the political scene grows tenser, battles of slogans are raging, and political diatribe escalates. Frictions have become more pronounced, some of which are coupled with threats to shed blood, or has indeed been shed. All this reflects the acute struggle between various competing electoral lists, especially the big ones. This is taking place in a country where change has occurred through the war option, with consequent repercussions and implications. Iraq is going through difficult and complex moments of transition, from a totalitarian regime, mainly characterized with policies of exclusion and elimination drenched in oppression, suppression and imposition of a strategy of collective fear, to a new horizon that has not yet materialized as a real democratic alternative.

The battle of alternatives is therefore knocking on the doors unannounced, and there is no objection to this. But we are very much concerned about the methods and means for achieving this or that alternative. In the course of struggle for achieving the alternative that our country really needs, some of those who accepted democracy forget that one of its most important mechanisms is that the exchange of political power or getting hold of it takes place through the ballot box, through democratic means and in a transparent way, and through ensuring equal opportunities, rather than forcing people to make a certain choice. Democracy, in its most basic definition, is based on the idea of the free citizen, who is free of any sectarian, ethnic, racial, confessions or other conditions. One should be able to choose to vote for an electoral list with his/her own will, on the basis of its program, without any coercion or verbal and physical violence. The experience of recent days, as tensions mounted, have shown, in many areas, that the situation is different on the ground. Some lists, whose supporters rely on backing from various official and unofficial bodies, including institutions responsible for security and public order, have allowed themselves the “right” to employ various means to coerce the people, especially the supporters and activists of competing lists, resorting to diverse methods, and using various forces and means.

While pointing out such manifestations, we are not talking in generalities. There is a big mass of information, covering all of Iraq, that speak of extremely varied excesses and violations. These cannot be considered just accidental events or a result of reckless behaviour of a local nature that are conducted by ghosts, but rather the action of real persons some of whom are armed to the teeth and do not hesitate to resort the gun to silence the activists of other lists. This state of affairs is no longer the product of fervent groups “that cannot be controlled”, as some who justify these vicious violations claim. They are, as a matter of fact, acts that have acquired a systematic character of a centralized nature, aimed at harassing, terrorizing and scaring off the people, and creating a climate that make many hesitate to choose the list that they believe to be expressing their aspirations, hopes and desires for building a new Iraq, a democratic Iraq and a modern state.
The conclusion from all this is simple: The “fervent efforts” exerted by some lists have a clear aim; to put pressure on the people in order to undermine the share of other forces in the battle for the forthcoming parliament, so that a new balance of forces will not be achieved. Taking into consideration that one of the most important tasks of the new parliament, which will emerge from the elections, is to carry out amendments in the current constitution so as to improve its civil-democratic character and the position towards women rights, one can understand what lies behind the fervent efforts to stir up tension and create an uncontrollable situation. The aim is to make the possibility of changing the current polarization in the National Assembly difficult to achieve.

The campaign of violations is no longer confined to tearing down or tarnishing the posters and banners of other lists, that is carried out by “unidentified elements” who operate openly not only in front of ordinary people but in front of police forces and close to their vehicles and some of their outposts. Even worse is that in many cases it has turned out that some members of the police and unofficial militias actually tore down posters or put up banners for a specific list. This is taking place despite statement by government officials stressing on several occasions that the governments and its bodies will be neutral in the election campaign, and that their job would be limited to providing protection and a proper climate for the elections to be conducted in a transparent manner and in safety.

The above-mentioned acts of escalation have not been the last. Another dangerous development has taken place, with “shadowy” groups launching raids, with mobile units, targeting specific areas, in Baghdad and other provinces, telling people that they must elect a certain list, otherwise the community of these areas would face severe punishment, according to them! Things got worse when the “struggle” of these shadowy elements reached the extent of threatening assassination, or even murdering candidates of some of the rival lists in cold blood, as was the fate of our comrades who were assassinated in a despicable manner in Al-Thawra (Al-Sadr) City.

In all this confusion, there have to be elements that ought to be responsible for the safety and transparency of the election campaign. Among them are two factors that are missing or hard to find any trace for them or their role: the Government and the Independent Higher Electoral Commission. The government and its instruments as it is clear from a lot of concrete evidence, is not neutral in the election campaign. The role of the Independent Higher Electoral Commission, which seems to be hesitant, is also notable. Until this very moment, it has done nothing concrete, despite the mounting excesses and violations, not even at the level of issuing statements! It has not taken any measures that can deter any one who violates the rules of conduct stipulated by the Commission. The Commission has instead, unfortunately, succumbed to the pressures of various quarters.

What we would like to say and stress is that the phase of “hitting below the belt”, has unfortunately unleashed. It is expected that the campaign of violations could even get more vicious and violent if serious steps are not taken to stop it. This situation is threatening the transparency, integrity and safety of the whole election campaign, and casts heavy shadows on the prospect for achieving the people’s aspiration for a truly democratic life. A question hence sharply arises in these decisive moments in our country’s history: Where is the position of the active political players; the leaders of political parties and forces, especially those in power, and the civil society organizations and others, those who are responsible for shaping public opinion and influence its orientation and stance vis-à-vis the big issues?

It is of extreme importance today to remember that we are living through difficult and dangerous moments, that will decide the fate and future of Iraq, that is the fate and future of all of us. All and every one need to strive to ensure that “the small gains” do not surpass the big objectives: building a free, democratic, federal and independent Iraq. Those who are pinning hope today on achieving “the highest levels” by employing practices that have nothing to do with democracy will have missed the right path and not learnt the lessons of history.

Only few days separate us from the election day on 15 December 2005, and there is still time, although little, for the leaders of the parties participating in the political process to have their say, through holding an urgent meeting to discuss all these developments, excesses and violations, to endorse a Charter of Faith for the election campaign that highlights the need for everybody to pledge that the elections will take place all over the country in an honest and transparent manner, without exclusion, or any oppression, terror, or verbal and physical violence.

Will the Iraqi politicians declare their final word before it is too late? We are counting on the awareness of everybody, and pinning hopes on the collective wisdom that has triumphed on several occasions. We are hopeful that this wisdom will triumph this time too. So, do not squander this rare opportunity.

--An editorial from Tareeq Al-shaab, the national newspaper of the Iraqi Communist Party. For Further information, please contact: International Relations Committee - Iraqi CP e-mail: