12/28/2004: Is the election in Iraq doomed?
The largest political party representing Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority announced Monday that it would drop out of the Jan. 30 election, dealing a fresh blow to the vote's credibility on the same day the top Shiite Muslim candidate survived a car bombing.As long as we're in Iraq for the long haul (and I fear we are), isn't it better to do things right than to meet arbitrary deadlines?
The withdrawal of the Iraqi Islamic Party, combined with the assassination attempt on cleric Abdul Aziz Hakim, heightened concerns that the parliamentary election may produce a lopsided result, further alienating Sunni areas where the armed insurgency is growing.
The need for adequate Sunni participation has become a central issue a month before the election, seen by the United States and Iraq's interim leadership as pivotal to creating a stable government.
"The time which has been fixed by the United States will only fulfill the ambition of the two or three parties that are connected to Iran. It does not allow us to make real democracy in Iraq, so we want some extension that will let all Iraqis prepare," said Salih M. Mutlag, an academic and Sunni activist. Mutlag was among 600 delegates from six largely Sunni provinces who called for a postponement last week.
"If there will be an election Jan. 30, it will not be a celebration day as everybody wanted," Mutlag said. "It will be a doomsday in Iraq."
The public appetite for elections is unclear. In opinion polls taken earlier in the year, Sunnis voiced their intention to vote nearly as emphatically as did other Iraqis. And Hindawi, who heads Iraq's independent electoral commission, said Sunni tribal leaders and others had assured him that voters remain enthusiastic.
If Sunni voters have lagged in attending to voter lists, he said, "we are sure it's because of the security situation only. It's really not a political expression of the population."
Sadoun Dulame, a Sunni who heads the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, said turnout in Sunni areas is expected to be so low that the Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew rather than face defeat.
"In the end, it depends on the Sunni Triangle, and the Sunni Triangle doesn't vote in the election," he said.
Len on 12.28.04 @ 06:21 PM CST