Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Iraq Elections - Fierce Determination

A round up of feelings from the Middle East by the San Francisco Chronicle

Compare this to the doom and gloom brought to you by the BBC.

As Iraqis count down the days until next Sunday's U.S.-backed elections, a sense of fierce determination -- to carry out a historic, if very uncertain exercise in democracy -- is in the air.

A recent cartoon in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada, for example, showed a voter slipping his own sliced-off head, instead of a paper ballot, into the slot of a ballot box. Its somewhat obtuse meaning: despite threats by insurgents to kill anyone who takes part in the elections scheduled for next Sunday, determined citizens will go to the polls, whatever the real or imagined risks they may face. (Iraqi Press Monitor; click on link for Jan. 19)

As Middle East Online op-ed columnist Ben Tanosborn noted, "Whatever happens on [election day] in Iraq, the people there will have their say, will have their vote ... whether by turning in their ballots at the polling places, or by staying home." And although Iraq's American overseers intend for the forthcoming vote to be "a full-fledged national and provincial multiparty election," Tanosborn believes that its results "will boil down to a simple referendum" to decide whether Iraq "remains a geopolitical[ly] indivisible nation" or whether it will undergo a process of "Balkanization" leading to "its fragmentation and a possible civil war."

In Iraq, the newspaper Al-Bayan advised "[t]hose who are convinced ... the election is the only salvation from the political, economic and security chaos" that now prevail in the war-ravaged country to "make sure they are well prepared for the vote ...." It added, "Those ... who believe this process will come to nothing should make up their minds and offer an appropriate alternative" and reminded readers that "[a]ny team that can win a majority will succeed, and its rival should then succumb to the will of the majority." (Al-Bayan, quoted by BBC)

In the United Arab Emirates, the newspaper Al-Ittihad looked ahead encouragingly to election day by noting that, so far, "the terrorists have not succeeded in terrorizing the Iraqi people. In fact, they have strengthened their resolve to move forward with a national political program [that] will ensure that foreigners leave their country, and that a new era begins based on democracy." (Al-Ittihad, quoted by BBC)

Noting that, in fact, "[t]here are indeed two occupations in Iraq," that of the U.S.-led coalition forces and that of the terrorists who oppose them, Saudi Arabia's Arab News observed that, although the insurgents "say they reject the election because it is a tool of Washington, designed to prolong [its] occupation," the truth is "that if enough voters brave threats such as the terrorist graffiti reading 'Vote and Die,' and a representative government does emerge from Sunday's process, the men of violence will have received a worse defeat than any that Iraqi security forces and coalition troops could inflict upon them on the battlefield."

The Arab News, published in a country that isn't exactly well known for a very open, full democracy of its own, added, "That is why Sunday is so important, because it will be the first chance ... ordinary people will [have] to make their voice[s] heard among the gunfire and bomb blasts."

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