With U.S. Troops Leaving, Is Iraq a Democratic Country Now?

One of the most problematic insurgent groups operating in Iraq today is the Naqshbandi. Being responsible for the majority of small-scale terrorist acts (rather than al-Qaeda, which prefers to conduct mass-casualty attacks and hostage takings as happened in Tikrit in the spring), the Naqshbandi is an ideological, Baathist remnant of the Sunni insurgency that has lost most of its momentum since the end of 2006 as more and more Sunnis came to realize that they were losing the fight for Baghdad against the Shi’ite militias.

However, being a former member of the Baath party is not the same thing as a being a terrorist, and as Article 135 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates, simply having been a member of the Baath party is "not a sufficient basis for transfer to the court." Visser further notes:

The systematic information about membership levels strongly suggests this is an attempt to refer to Iraq’s de-Baathification legislation from 2008. But it is a flawed attempt…but firqa members are specifically allowed to return [to the public sector] with the exceptions of security, intelligence and diplomatic services. The de-Baathification act does not in itself offer specific procedures for dealing with allegations of Baathist sympathies.

It follows that the current wave of arrests is likely to be yet another attempt by the Shi’ite parties to crack down on political opponents with vague allegations of Baathism, a key part of their electoral campaign in 2010.

Squabbling among the politicians: More than 19 months after the elections in March 2010, a government has still not been fully formed, owing to the preoccupation of the country’s politicians with their own rewards of power. This is not merely a problem of sectarianism, but also a case of personal power struggles, particularly evident in the manner in which the premier, Nouri al-Maliki, has tried to win as much control of the government as possible for his State of Law bloc.

Indeed, in violation of the compromise agreement forged by Massoud Barzani in December 2010 that allowed al-Maliki to have a second term as prime minister, the premier is still attempting to take control of the Defense and Security ministries that should have been awarded to Ayad Allawi’s al-Iraqiya bloc, which won the largest single number of seats in the elections (91 seats as opposed to 89 for State of Law). In turn, frustrated at al-Maliki’s manipulative games, the al-Iraqiya bloc is increasingly being divided by factionalism, with splinter groups being formed like the White Iraqi National Movement.

All this has significantly impeded meaningful decision-making, and has been the basis for ongoing, still relatively small-scale protests in the country about corruption and poor provision of public services.

In a few measures of a healthy democratic society -- above all the realm of press freedom -- Iraq performs significantly better than its neighbors, yet the only conclusion to be drawn from the above observations is to agree with Freedom House’s general comment that Iraq is still "not an electoral democracy" and the think-tank’s classification of the country as "Not Free."