Saturday, January 29, 2005

Iraq the vote

Voting in the Iraq election started about two hours ago, and no major violence has occurred so far. I hope things stay that way.

Even in the absence of terrorism and insurgent attacks, though, early signs point to some election-related problems that will persist long after the next 24 hours. Iraq is still so dangerous that candidates couldn't campaign -- or even admit to being candidates -- safely. The country's interim president, Ghazi al-Yawer, predicted low turnout before backtracking on that statement later in the day. Turnout among the minority Sunnis, who controlled the country for decades, is expected to be well below 50 percent, which could leave many Sunnis under-represented, persecuted by the Shiite majority, and in a civil-war frame of mind.

President Bush said today that "[e]very Iraqi who casts his or her vote deserves the admiration of the world," and he's right. The election is an historic moment in Iraq, and regardless of one's position on the wisdom of starting the war, it's good to see people who lived under dictatorship for so long participating in a vote where the results aren't predetermined.

Still, when thinking about the Iraq election, I can't help but conjure up visions of a high-school election: a vote, closely monitored by the powers-that-be, to elect a student government that gets to make symbolic decisions but has little to no say over how the people in charge run the big show.

It's progress, of course, but it'll take more than an SGA to ensure long-term peace and stability in Iraq.

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