Reading the Elections
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies2 February 2005
* The millions of Iraqis who came out for the elections were voting their hopes for an end to violence and occupation, and a better life; their hopes are not likely to be met.
* George Bush will be the major victor in this election, using it to claim legitimacy for his occupation of Iraq . This election does not mean that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is legitimate – democracy cannot be imposed at the point of a gun.
* The election, held under military occupation and not meeting international criteria, including those of the Carter Center , remains illegitimate; legitimacy is not determined by the number of people voting.
* Even the expected victory of Shi'a-led political parties is not likely to result in the new assembly calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
* U.S. domination of Iraq 's economic, political and social life will continue through the military occupation and the continuing control of money, the legal system, and political patronage.
* The U.S. has a long history of using elections held under conditions of war and occupation to legitimize its illegal wars - the January 2005 elections in Iraq mirror the 1967 election held in South Viet Nam , also held to give credibility to Washington 's puppet government.
The individual Iraqis who came out to vote clearly were very brave and eager to reclaim control of their country. They were voting for their hopes, for secure streets so children can go to school, for electricity and clean water, for jobs, and mostly for an end to the U.S. occupation. The elections, however, are unlikely to achieve any of those goals; the violence is likely to continue, perhaps even increase. The U.S. occupation is STILL the problem, not the solution, in Iraq, and only bringing the U.S. troops home, not imposing elections under continuing occupation, will lead to an end of violence.
Millions of Iraqis participated in the election, but it is still unclear how many. International journalists were limited to five polling stations in Baghdad , four of which were in Shi'a districts with expected high turnout. The U.S.-backed election commission in Iraq originally announced a 72% participation immediately after the polls closed, then downscaled that to "near 60%" - actually claiming about 57% turn-out. But those figures are all still misleading. The Washington Post reported (two days after the vote, on page 7 of the Style section) that the 60% figure is based on the claim that 8 million out of 14 million eligible Iraqis turned out. But the 14 million figure itself is misleading, because it only includes those registered Iraqis, not the 18 million actually eligible voters. Similarly, the claim of very high voter participation among Iraqi exiles is misleading, since only 280,000 or so Iraqis abroad even registered, out of about 1.2 million qualified to register and vote. The participation of women, both as candidates (imposed by the U.S.-backed electoral law) and as voters, was significant, but key demands of Iraqi women, particularly involving economic and social rights disproportionately denied to women, are unlikely to be met through this electoral process.