Monday, February 14, 2005

Iraqi Election Results

Click on the title of this posting for a full review of the Iraqi election results. There are a couple of key points here on this information to consider:

- Shiite Muslims, who are the majority ethnic group in Iraq, took home 48% of the popular vote and 140 of 275 seats in the assembly (two more seats than a majority).
- Kurdish voters were the big surprise. Kurds had a strong turnout and captured about 75 seats in the assembly, which is more than was anticipated.
- Sunni Muslims, who represent 20% of the Iraqi population, took home only 2% of the popular vote and only a handful of assembly seats.

USA Today has a good summary as well. If you read the results for each political party, you get an appreciation for how diverse of a country Iraq really is politically. For the most part, I think it's a good sign that the Kurds and Shiites, who have historically been oppressed by Saddam Hussein, will have a strong role in drafting the constitution. A strong Kurdish minority can also help to prevent a theocratic government that some had anticipated with a large Shiite majority. The Shiites and Kurds, for the most part, also seem committed to peace.

My primary concern is the lack of participation by Sunni Muslims in the election. I think the lack of participation is a harbinger of things to come. Many Sunni Muslims boycotted the elections, since during the Hussein regime, despite their minority status, they controlled much of the country. Unfortunately, much of the insurgency is rooted in this small, non-participatory sector of the Iraqi political landscape. Efforts need to be made to involve the Sunni Muslims in the process, because there will be little incentive for them to participate in the government through traditional means.

Some will argue that the Sunnis made their own decision not to participate, and therefore, should not be included in the process. However, further marginalization of the Sunnis during such a critical juncture in the government-building process will only make peace more difficult to achieve. No one expected the minority group that was pushed out of power by the US invasion to embrace a democratic government supported by the country that invaded them, where their power was transferred to those who they had been oppressing. If the Sunnis are not involved in the governmental genesis of Iraq, they will likely resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their goals, as they have done historically.

The Bush Administration seems committed to disregarding the lack of Sunni participation, further increasing the likelihood of continued violence and terrorism from this group. Despite their minority status, many Sunnis were made rich and powerful while Saddam was in power, and they have the resources to support government opposition, as they have demonstrated during the US occupation. Simply ignoring the Sunnis and berating them for not participating in the elections will do nothing to further peace in Iraq.

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