Posted by Jeremy Brown
I don’t know about you, but I’m delighted — and, I admit, pleasantly surprised — by the results of the Iraqi election as announced this weekend.
In short, it appears that the Shiite parties (the United Iraqi Alliance) have won the expected majority, but only, amazingly, by a hair with 48 percent of the vote. This means they lack the two thirds majority they’d have needed to unilaterally (if you can apply that word to the concept of a two thirds majority) install a government of their choice. The Kurdish parties (the Kurdistan Alliance) won an amazing 28% of the vote, and Allawi’s Iraqi List got a little under 14%. What does this very likely mean? The answer deserves its own paragraph:
Democracy not theocracy!
Even if, like me, you were cautiously optimistic that Sistani was not blowing sunshine up our collective asses about Iraqi Shiites having no intention of installing an Iran-style theocracy, I don’t mind at all that they’re going to have to build partnerships with Kurds, secular leaders and, yes, Sunnis in order to put together a government and a constitution. As we say in my country: Yee haw!
Here’s the New York Times’ account of the results. Notice the opening phrase: “A broad Shiite alliance led by two Iran-backed religious parties…” They almost seem to be saying that you need only bother reading any further if you really have nothing better to do with your day. But the article delivers the goods in spite of its first line.
See also this coverage by Jeff Weintraub at Normblog. (I’m assuming that Jeff’s account of the Shiite UIA not getting a majority is now out of date. The NYT explains that they squeezed by with their majority because of a complex system whereby votes were weighted after being tallied. Saved by the bell curve, I guess.) Here’s Jeff’s conclusion:
“Successfully holding the election was itself a remarkable triumph (under the circumstances); and the results give the Iraqis just about the best possible chance they could have gotten to put together a decently acceptable political future for the country – if they don’t blow it, of course.”
And here’s a happy Kurdish man, whose gesture will make Britons laugh immediately and Americans like me laugh a few seconds later (via Hak, who I’ve come to count on for inspiring pictures of Iraqis gesturing with their fingers):
UPDATE: A commenter worries, reasonably, about the low Sunni voter turnout. I had meant to include in this post my other perception, namely that the slim Shiite margin of majority will make it clear to Sunni voters how much more powerful their votes would have been and indeed will be in the Spring. I can think of no better way to demonstrate how participating in the new democracy will benefit Sunnis. They’ll come to the polls next time, don’t you think?
UPDATE: Early readers of this post who may now be re-reading it might have noticed an edit up above regarding things being blown places or not by Sistani. I realized that I meant sunshine, not smoke. We can’t afford to be imprecise in these matters.